Brian Baker took another significant step forward in his return to professional tennis when he defeated Xavier Malisse 6-3, 7-6, 7-6 in a first-round match at the French Open on Monday.
The Hillsboro High School product and former Belmont assistant coach successfully converted four break points, including two in the first set, and had nine aces and 46 winners. He won the third-set tiebreaker 7-5 after having dominated the second-set tiebreaker 7-1 (he lost the first point).
"I could never have envisioned all this happening a year ago,'' Baker said in a TV interview, following the match. "I just hope I can keep it rolling.''
Baker’s next match is against France’s Gilles Simon, the 11 seed who figures to have a significant advantage in terms of support.
Monday’s was the second victory ever in a Grand Slam event — his first at the French Open — for Baker, the 27-year-old who last played on the ATP Tour six years ago. In between, he battled a host of injuries that required five surgeries.
He earned his invitation to the second Grand Slam of the season through his performance in a pair of Challenger series events last month.
Last week, he won his first three ATP matches of the year and ran his overall win streak to 15 when he advanced to the final of the Nice Open. He missed out on the title when he lost to Nicolås Almagro, the 12th seed in the men’s field at the French Open.
His only previous appearances in Grand Slam events were at the U.S. Open (2003-05).
Baker’s professional ranking is at an all-time high of 141, and his $63,819 in earnings already this season is roughly one-third of what he made in four years prior to his injury issues.
Malisse, of Belgium, was ranked No. 77.