Brian Baker’s comeback in numbers:
141 – Baker’s world ranking at the start of the tournament. The last American aged 27 and ranked No 141 to receive so much attention? That was Andre Agassi, during his dark crystal meth days, and he went on to complete a career grand slam and marry Steffi Graf. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Baker has risen quickly – he was No 216 before the start of last week’s tournament in Nice, where he came through qualifying and finished as the runner-up to Spain’s Nicolas Almagro. “I don’t think I could ever have envisioned starting in qualies and getting all the way to the final. That’s the best I’ve ever done in any ATP tournament – by far. Unbelievable week.”
129 – Places that Baker is below his second-round opponent, Frenchman Gilles Simon, in the rankings. They play on Wednesday.
25,000 – Amount, in euros, that the wild card has earned so far at the French Open. If he beats Simon, he will be guaranteed at least 42,000 euros.
5 – Operations Baker underwent. They are: a left hip operation, a sports hernia, reconstructive right elbow surgery, more work on his left hip, and an operation to his right hip. “It’s so much sweeter to have success now, because of how much I’ve been through in the past, and how much pain, and because I had tennis taken away from me. It’s not like I wanted to quit tennis,” he has said. “I never really had that one moment where I thought about throwing in the towel. But you have to be realistic when you have that many surgeries, that maybe tennis isn’t on the cards anymore, and that you’ve got to see what else is out there outside of tennis. But I never had that one time where I was ready to say: ‘I’m done.’ Maybe close to that, but never all the way out.”
6 – Years that he took off from professional tennis. He spent that time studying and teaching tennis at Belmont University in Nashville. You can still find him on the Belmont website, where they introduce their assistant coach as “one of the top tennis players that the Middle Tennessee area has ever produced”. They may want to revise that bio. Baker’s students have been sending him texts and Facebook messages. “They think it’s awesome. I guess they’re finally feeling validated about when I used to beat them in practice, now they don’t have to feel so bad about it, as I’m beating some other guys too.”
1 – Number of chocolates bars eaten by Baker’s uncle, Carl, who started to cramp during his nephew’s first-round victory over Xavier Malisse. Someone found the bar on the floor (“another fan had left it on the ground beneath the bleachers,” reported the Wall Street Journal, “and Carl devoured it”).
11 – Number of people (at the last count) in Baker’s entourage, which includes his girlfriend, family, friends and a former coach. Brian’s parents – lawyer Steve and music teacher Jackie – celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary last weekend.
1 – Number of group panics that Baker’s support went through after they realised they had left the bags and the cameras at the court. Fortunately, when they returned, their belongings were all still there.
9 – Years since he made the boy’s final at Roland Garros, losing in three sets to Stan Wawrinka. In his junior days, he was beating players such as Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.