Baker enjoys taste of success after second bite of cherry

Mon Jan 14, 2013 5:34am EST
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By Simon Cambers

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Cast as the Cinderella Man of tennis in 2012 after his stunning comeback from almost seven years off the professional circuit, American Brian Baker is beginning to get used to life among the world's best players.

Twelve months ago, Baker was ranked world number 456, still in the early throes of a comeback and playing on the Futures Tour, two rungs below the top flight.

On Monday, the 27-year-old edged out Alex Bogomolov Jr of Russia 7-6 6-3 6-7 3-6 6-2 to win his first ever match at the Australian Open.

Now ranked 59, Baker is getting accustomed to mixing it with the best and said the dream had become a reality.

"I think last year it probably helped me to have that mentality of sure. I'm still competitive, I want to win every match but you kind of think 'I'm really happy to be here'," Baker told reporters.

"I didn't have the expectations and then you kind of just ride, ride and ride that wave and you don't put the pressure on yourself.

"This year, I have to remind myself where I was a year ago, playing a $10,000 Futures, instead of the Australian Open, but I don't have that same 'I'm happy to be here, let's see what happens'. Now it's 'I've done it, let's try to get better'."

Having been the runner-up at the French Open juniors in 2003, Baker was working his way up the senior rankings in 2005 when he first felt an injury in his left hip, which required surgery.   Continued...

Brian Baker of the U.S. hits a return to Alex Bogomolov Jr. of Russia during their men's singles match at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne January 14, 2013. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne