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Brian Baker - first round

Tuesday 26 June 2012

B. BAKER/R. Machado

7‑6, 6‑4, 6‑0

Q. So I assume it's ice on your shoulder rather than some kind of fetish?

BRIAN BAKER: No, no, it's ice.

Q. Is that a precautionary measure or?

BRIAN BAKER: Yeah, it's something I always ice my shoulder after matches. You know, I have had a little bit of a sore shoulder since the French. It's something I do after the match to make sure I'm okay.

Q. This is your first appearance in the main draw at Wimbledon.

BRIAN BAKER: Right.

Q. You have won very convincingly today. What were your thoughts on the match?

BRIAN BAKER: No, I mean, I'm excited for sure to get to the second round. Like you said, it's your first Wimbledon, and I thought we both started kind of slow, just sort of felt our way out.

I was fortunate to play a decent breaker and get through that, and then I felt like I loosened up a bit. Started getting in more of his return games. You know, was able to I think step up and put a little more pressure on his serve.

That obviously allowed me to, you know, win the way I did the last two sets.

Q. Can I be a little bit annoying and ask you to tell a story you're probably already sick of telling.

BRIAN BAKER: Maybe.

Q. Just a quick little appraisal of what happened with you leaving the tennis and then coming back?

BRIAN BAKER: Yeah. No, well, I turned pro in '03, actually right about during junior Wimbledon time. I didn't play a full schedule that fall, but played all the year '04; then played '05, and after the US Open in '05 I had my first of five surgeries. It was on my left hip.

I had two left hip surgeries, one right hip surgery, elbow reconstruction, and then a sports hernia surgery. I didn't do them in the same order. Like it was a different order than that. Last surgeries I had were in '08.

Went back to Belmont University in Nashville where I was a normal student and an assistant coach. I guess the summer of 2011, last year just, you know, everything started coming together and started feeling a lot better and said, Hey, let's give it a go now. I still have one more year to completely degree.

I felt good, and I still had, you know, some aches and pains coming back. I think not the surgeries, but just from not having played, you know, day in and day out tennis for that long. So I only played I think five events last year, and then this year I felt pretty good.

I have played a normal schedule, and, you know, so far, so good. (Knocking the desk.)

Q. Since Roland Garros, what is the most interesting or most surprising thing that's happened, the most fun thing?

BRIAN BAKER: You know, I haven't been back home. I'm sure it will be a lot of fun when I get to go back home and share it with some friends that I haven't seen.

But I think, you know, just all the press that I've been getting. You know, at Roland Garros there was ‑‑ I feel like I was doing stuff every day, and then it calmed down a little bit.

Now here I feel like it's been kind of like a whirlwind ride. I'm enjoying it right now, looking forward to continuing to play well, and hopefully this summer I will have a good summer and get into the US Open.

Q. And overall, what has it felt like to sort of Ping‑Pong between the excitement, competition of the pro circuit and surgery, the anonymity of being a kid and an assistant coach?

BRIAN BAKER: Oh, I mean, it's a night and day difference. I'd be lying if I sat here and said that I expected, you know, all this to happen right now when I was, you know, going through all those surgeries.

But I never gave up the hope that I would be able to come back. I was always confident in my abilities that if I was ever able to stay healthy that I would have success.

So I guess I was hopeful that I would come back and that my game would still be there. But I don't think I ever imagined that at this point this year that I was going to be playing both at the French and Wimbledon and, you know, winning rounds and winning challengers and getting to the finals of an ATP.

So it's been a pleasant surprise, and hopefully I can continue the momentum and play well.

Q. What was like the worst moment when you thought it was just all over?

BRIAN BAKER: Yeah, I have been asked that a lot. It's tough to pinpoint that one moment, but it was probably, you know, sitting in the operating room before my elbow surgery.

Because I had already had all the hip surgeries, and I knew that this one was going to be the longest recovery.

So after I had the elbow surgery, that's when I decided to go back to start pursuing a degree just because I was going to be out at least a year to 18 months, two years. It actually ended up taking longer to get over that.

If there's one spot to highlight, it was probably right before that surgery because you just know that ‑‑ I think I told myself after that, it's like I'm not going to keep having surgeries to prolong my career at that point.

Q. What degree are you doing?

BRIAN BAKER: What now?

Q. What degree is it?

BRIAN BAKER: It's in business and a finance concentration.

Q. After all the attention you got at Roland Garros and then found out you didn't get the wildcard for Wimbledon, you get here, you're thinking business as usual, sort of back to qualifying, challenger...

BRIAN BAKER: Yeah, I knew that I was in, I guess, consideration for a wildcard, but I knew it was never a sure thing. I have had some of my best results this year going through quallies, so it wasn't really like one of those, Oh, my gosh. I didn't get the wildcard.

It was like, Okay, let's get three matches on grass. I lost at Queens in quallies and didn't feel like I was playing well on the grass at all. Maybe it was a blessing in disguise to have to go through three matches.

I know it's not on the same courts, but it's still grass court tennis. I think it's helped me so far.

Q. How much are you better now than before all the surgeries?

BRIAN BAKER: You know, that's a tough question to ask. I think I am definitely a better player. I think just being older in itself, even though maybe not experienced because I wasn't out on tour, just being able to handle the ups and downs on and off the court. Sometimes if you're not doing well, if you lose a couple of matches in a row, that can wear on a younger player.

Then as far as the game goes, yeah, I think my forehand is better now. I think maybe, you know, backhand chip, maybe volley. But I think for the most part the forehand is better than before.

Q. I know you had a lot of family with you before the French Open. Who do you have here with you?

BRIAN BAKER: It's not quite as big of an entourage. My girlfriend, who is sitting there, and then my parents. My parents are here and my mom's sister. So you've got four of us.

Q. Did you take some time to kind of soak up the atmosphere on court today given you've never been in the main draw? Might not have made it with all these surgeries.

BRIAN BAKER: I mean, yes and no. It was more of a businesslike approach going out there. Of course you're going to have a lot more jitters first round at Wimbledon. Never played before.

But went out there trying to get off to a good start. I didn't get off to a bad start, but I didn't get off to maybe the start I wanted.

So it was more stay in the moment and focus and then after the match enjoy it.

Q. Do you remember being this confident before? If so, what period of your career was that?

BRIAN BAKER: Never been this confident on the ATP Tour, no. I think it just takes winning some matches. I think Nice was huge. Just being able to beat guys top 100, top 50 in the world, that allows you to ‑‑ maybe even though you're not necessarily playing that much better, you know in the big moments of the match that you're more confident.

Of course, like, I mean, there are times in juniors where you win like 50 matches in a row where you're really confident, but never on the main tour like this, no.

Q. Have you ever been away from home this long?

BRIAN BAKER: I did it in 2005 where same thing, I went over before the French Open and then stayed through. But I lost in quallies. I guess never quite this long. But similar.

Q. How is your body holding up? You played like eight matches in Nice.

BRIAN BAKER: I felt the wear and tear after the French. Then it was good to take the week off. And then, you know, I think the balls here are a bit heavier so it puts more stress on the shoulder.

From what I've been through the last six years and how many matches I played leading up, I'm feeling good.

Q. Must be feeling niggles.

BRIAN BAKER: Of course. I don't think anybody goes onto the court 100% healthy every match; if they do, props to them.

But when I'm on the court, you know, I feel good enough to play, for sure.

Q. So your life is sort of this collection of preparing for surgeries, recovering from surgeries, preparing for tests and so forth. Then you finally come and you walk up to Roland Garros or you come up to the All England Club, what goes through your mind at those moments when you come to these great venues?

BRIAN BAKER: I think it's more like right when you show up to the site ‑ for me at least ‑ than it is right before I go to the match just knowing, wow, this is a pretty cool feeling what I've been through and now being able to, you know, after this many years actually be doing better than I ever have before.

It's a pretty ‑‑you know, it's a weird feeling, but at the same time it's a cool feeling. I think the first time I stepped ‑‑ I think I have been able to enjoy Wimbledon more than the French just because coming from Nice I literally got there on Sunday and I played on Monday.

Although I won a match and I lost on Wednesday, I think you didn't have those days, the practice days where it's a little lighter of a day where you're not already in match, mental match form.

So here after the quallies on Wednesday, I mean, I had four days or five days to get ready for the main draw. I think I was able to soak it up a little bit more, you know, as you're practicing and then eating in the lounge and then, you know, having more time to I guess digest the opportunity.

Q. In Paris you said that, Hey, I'm doing some pretty cool things, something to that effect. What's your self‑talk when you step back and see these runs, these results? What do you say to yourself?

BRIAN BAKER: That will probably happen more when I get back home and like I said see, all my friends and everything else.

You know, when I'm at the tournament ‑ I know it's boring ‑ but it's more of a businesslike approach. I'm not thinking, Oh, man, this is awesome. Get into the second round. It's more like, Okay, how am I going to win this match?

So don't get me wrong. I think it's cool, like what I've been able to do, and it's been a lot of fun. I'm enjoying the moment. But every time, like when these guys see me here and everything else, it's more like how am I going to win the next match.

Q. You had said earlier ‑ I think in the spring ‑ about how the first time you felt a little bits of twinges after coming onto the court. You were immediately worried. How long did it take you to get over that feeling where you can say, This is just a niggle. I'll ice as a precaution, or I'm not worried about...

BRIAN BAKER: When did you see this?

Q. I read it in one of the stories.

BRIAN BAKER: Yeah, I think it was more last year than this year. I haven't had as many problems. But, yeah, I mean, like I said, typically most people ‑ especially this time of the year ‑ you're not going to just be perfect in every tournament.

You are going to have little things that bother you. I think I know my body better than probably anybody now to where I know if something is like a little something that's just, you know, I need to address and take care of it and something that's bad.

So we hope to stay away from the bad stuff.

Q. What's been the reception from your fellow American players? Did you ever play Isner at all in juniors?

BRIAN BAKER: We didn't play much. I think we played maybe once in the 14s and then like one ITF tournament in the 18s. But being the same year, we actually did not play a ton.

As far as your first question, it's been positive. You know, I have enjoyed getting to see some of the guys, you know, you keep in a little bit of contact with but not really see, you know, on a week to week basis for ‑‑ I guess it was really like seven years.

So that's been one of the cool things, being able to practice with them again and just hang out.

Q. What's your greatest strength and greatest weakness as assistant coach for Belmont?

BRIAN BAKER: Strength maybe just playing at a high level, just being able to share some of the wisdom that I had. Like the on‑court strategy and maybe just be able to see things during a match, too. Things that could help them.

But weakness? I don't know. Maybe just not having been in the coaching ranks so much. Maybe I give too much information at times. You know, I have certain ways that I think about how to play a match, and you can't do that with everybody.

So I was learning as I went along on how to, you know, you have to tell different people different things. That was one thing I was having, you know, to learn as I went.

Q. Do you feel you have much of an advantage over the guys you're playing now because you might have seen more of their games than they've seen of you, or is that not really the case?

BRIAN BAKER: I don't think that's really the case, because a lot of the guys I don't know either. Or even if you see them on TV a few times, it's not like you're trying to dissect their game for a future match. Or at least I wasn't.

Maybe a little bit. I think there's enough people that know how I play that think they can get a read on me. Might be a little truth in that, but I don't think it's a big thing.

Q. Can you go through your match and assess it.

BRIAN BAKER: Today? I know he's not a traditional grass court player. Plays more on clay and on slower surfaces. You know, you have to serve well and hold serve here.

And then I don't think I returned great the first set and he was going for a lot on second serves and he was catching me off guard a few times. I think it was key for me to play a good tiebreaker, and I was able to get a mini break early and hold on to it.

Once I closed out the first set, I feel like I loosened up a little bit and started putting more balls in the court and returning better.

I don't think he ever got a good read on my serve. I think the one game he broke me on I kind of broke myself.

But it was very, I think key ‑‑ like I said, that first set breaker was pivotal. After that I felt like things were heading in my direction.

Q. Did you get any info on him or?

BRIAN BAKER: I didn't know that much about him. I have obviously seen his name a ton on draw sheets. I didn't really know much about him. I knew he was typically going to stay back in the back of the court and just make a lot of balls and try to work points.

So I knew I'd have to be patient, but at the same time, I mean, I was going to have to step up to the court and be aggressive.

Q. In terms of the business element of coming back, can you describe that a little bit?

BRIAN BAKER: Yeah, it's been different. I mean, they started contacting me earlier than that when I was coming back, especially at the French and then through out here, and now they're all back here at Wimbledon.

I was thinking about maybe making a decision before Wimbledon but I haven't done that. But I think in the next for sure week or two I will decide on that, and then have that one more thing behind me and just be able to focus on tennis.

Q. Coach?

BRIAN BAKER: Still don't know if I would have a coach. I might have some guys helping me out this summer, but I don't know if it would be like a full‑time coach. I think I'm leaning more towards maybe not my own but sharing a physio for the summer circuit.

Q. What about your relationship with the USTA? Can you go to them as a support?

BRIAN BAKER: As far as coaching and stuff? I haven't done that yet. You know, I think they have always been good to me, especially when I was younger coming out. So, you know, they haven't contacted me about it, but I haven't, you know, reached out and asked them.

So, I mean, that could definitely be a possibility, but I just don't know.

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