Qualifier Brian Baker of the United States continued his remarkable progress at Wimbledon with a victory over the Frenchman Benoit Paire which put him into the fourth round on Monday, still chasing the dream.
Baker had already entered into new ground by reaching the last 16, and rubbing shoulders with the remaining elite will be a novel experience for him but one for which he looks ready.
He won today by 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, 6-3 on No.3 Court and the victory guarantees that he goes into the top 100 for the first time, at No.78. He was ranked 458th at the start of the year but his match play, dedication and an unswerving focus on his target have paid dividends.
The tall, bearded Paire came to the court a couple of minutes ahead of Baker and made an impressive opening, firing aces and giving enough evidence that he might dominate the early exchanges. But, as a first-round loser at Wimbledon last year, Paire has no more experience of the later stages than Baker and, despite serving three aces in the first game and looking generally menacing as a result, he could not sustain his attack for long enough to win a first set which was clearly critical to both players.
Instead Baker began to settle better to the task, made consistency his goal, and after holding two break points for a 4-3 lead then took the Frenchman’s serve two games later, a cross-court forehand and a volley assuring him of the break. Baker served out for the set without difficulty.
Baker said: "It was difficult to play a guy like that but I think it was more difficult just to have the conditions today. It was really blustery out there. It never felt the wind was even in the same direction every game, so I think we were both struggling a bit with the wind. Made it tougher to serve big."
In the second set, the 23-year-old Paire, who holds a ranking of 55th, served two love games to indicate that he was very much in business but then lost his rhythm and his serve to go 3-2 behind.
Baker could not reinforce that advantage, however, and he dropped serve for three-all as Paire went on to square the match with a break for 6-4. The set ended with Paire successfully challenging the call on the final point.
For the Frenchman the match no longer became a rewarding target from one set-all. He dropped serve three times running, winning a total of only two points, and was also warned for unsportsmanlike conduct for hitting his tennis bag.
Baker could now sense victory because his opponent’s frustrations were obvious and in the fourth set he was soon 3-0 ahead. He had a demanding seventh game with seven deuces but no break points and went on to serve for victory. One match point was lost by a missed forehand but Baker hit a forehand volley cross-court on his second chance and was left to dream about the second week. Paire could look only at a pile of discarded rackets and dream about what might have been.
Baker, who next plays the German Philipp Kohlschreiber, said: "I played him doubles a long time ago, maybe 2004 or 2005. I never really prasctised with him or played him in singles. It will be a new match for both of us. I will try to get togther with some people who know how he plays."
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