Jamie Baker had every right to be nervous about his Court No.1 showdown with three times Wimbledon finalist Andy Roddick on Tuesday evening before the heavens opened and forced the suspension of play. In five previous wild card appearances the British 25-year-old had never progressed past the first round of The Championships and he also happened to be playing the 2003 US Open champion.
On top of all that he strolled out onto the hallowed turf to thunderous applause and chorus of support, which suggested that he was also carrying the burden of expectation – or at least wishful thinking - on the part of a partisan crowd. So when Roddick opened proceedings at precisely 6.30pm all eyes were on the world ranked 186 Glaswegian to see how well he would fair.
The answer was very well. Instead of crumbling against the American’s weapon of a serve, which would have perhaps been perfectly excusable given the mammoth task that lay ahead, the Scot rose to the occasion, belting back balls with apparent ease, firing off winners and even daring to approach the net. Cool, calm and collected, Baker forced a handful of deuce points and, while he failed to win the game, the No.30 seed was made to fight for eight minutes just to win his opening service game. This wasn’t going to be easy.
Come the ninth game, Baker found himself in possession of two break points: the first a winner which whistled past the American at the net; the second delivered by a netted Roddick forehand. But the 29-year-old staved those off by pulling out 127 mph serves when it mattered, denying the Brit the opportunity to convert.
It wasn’t until the first set tie-break that things began to go awry for Baker. Roddick raced to a 5-0 lead and, serving for the set at 6-1, assumed he had thumped a clean winner to claim the first set. The American marched authoritatively to his chair but the ball had been called out by a line judge and, although immediately corrected, the umpire called for the point to be replayed. The incident did little to dent Roddick’s concentration - he simply addressed the kerfuffle with a 125mph ace to take the first set.
The world No.25 was a break up when the heavens opened at 7-6, 4-2, halting the day’s play, but when Roddick returned to do battle he sealed the second set with a 107mph ace.
Despite owning a handful of breakpoints in third set and spectacularly defending three breakpoints at 4-4, Baker simply did not have enough left in the tank and when a poorly executed drop-volley trickled into the bottom of the net, affording Roddick the break two games later, there was a distinct sense that this was the beginning of the end. It was. The American promptly served out the 7-6(1), 6-4, 7-5 victory to love with a 120mph ace and enjoyed a good old chat with the Scot as they shook hands at the net.
After the match Roddick praised Baker’s effort. “I thought he played really well, came out and was aggressive. I'm happy to get through,” he said.
“The first set and the third set definitely could have gone either way. I felt like I was hitting the ball fine. I served 75 per cent and returned okay, too. He came out very aggressively, with an aggressive game plan, and executed. He played a good match.”
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