Former American teen phenom Brian Baker continued his amazing comeback story on Wednesday by defeating No. 13 Gael Monfils, 6-3, 7-6 (9) at the Open de Nice.
It was the 27-year-old's first match against a player ranked in the top 50 since he beat reigning French Open champion Gaston Gaudio at the 2005 U.S. Open. In between, Baker underwent five surgeries that sidelined him for four years. Left hip, right hip, sports hernia, left hip (again), Tommy John surgery. The injuries knocked him out before he ever had a chance to get in.
He went back to school, healed from his ailments and returned to professional tennis in 2011. Baker had played in a French Open boys final against Stanislas Wawrinka. He defeated Novak Djokovic and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in junior events. He played in three U.S. Opens. Now he was in a futures event in Florida, earning 18 rankings points off five wins against players ranked in mid-1000s.
Last month, Baker won eight matches in Savannah to earn an American qualifying spot in the French Open. He traveled to Nice last week and won three qualifying matches to earn a spot in the main draw. The victory over Monfils was his second of the tournament. It is Baker's first tournament off North American soil in six years.
Baker is No. 216 in the ATP rankings and rising. He should move past his career high of No. 176 after this week.
"I'm confident," Baker recently told the Wall Street Journal. "But being out for so long, I know how quickly it can be taken away from you. I'm going to do everything in my power that this time, it's for a long time."