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Sunday, July 10, 2011

Baker Beats Fratangelo in Pittsburgh Futures Final; Isner, Harrison Win Titles at Newport

Most of the tennis news this weekend will center on the disappointing US Davis Cup loss to Spain in Austin, and John Isner's title at the ATP Campbell's Hall of Fame Championships in Newport, Rhode Island, but I think the most impressive performance of the weekend wasn't by Spain's David Ferrer or Isner, but Brian Baker, who won the $10,000 Futures event in Pittsburgh. Baker beat French Open boys champion and local hero Bjorn Fratangelo 7-5, 6-3 in today's final, and while the focus of the Pittsburgh newspapers has been Fratangelo, and understandably so (here is the Tribune-Review article on his comeback win over top seed and defending champion Adam El Mihdawy), Baker deserves a feature or two of his own.

The photo above is Brian Baker as a 17-year-old in the semifinals of the 2002 Boys 18s Nationals at Kalamazoo. Baker was the No. 1 seed that year, but was upset by No. 8 seed Doug Stewart in the semifinals. Baker went on to win the Orange Bowl that year, and the following spring he beat Marcos Baghdatis and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on his way to the French Open boys final, where he lost in three sets to Stanislas Wawrinka. He turned professional and worked his way to the Challenger level, beating No. 9 seed and 2004 French Open champion Gaston Gaudio in the first round of the US Open in 2005, but hip surgery and a variety of other physical ailments kept him out of competition for the next two years. He made a comeback in late 2007, at the age of 22, but that lasted barely a month, and more injuries kept him from competing much until recently. He took the men's tennis assistant's position at Belmont University right around that time, and is still identified in that capacity on the school's website. In short, it was a discouraging series of setbacks for a player who had shown such promise, and no one would blame him for concluding that a professional tennis career simply wasn't in the cards. But he continued to train, and compete occasionally in Tennessee open events, before taking that giant step back into ATP-level tennis.

This week, on the green clay, Baker, now 26 and without an ATP ranking, had to qualify. His win over Fratangelo in the final was his eighth in nine days; fortunately, he wasn't extended to three sets in any of his matches, but it certainly appears his body was able to cope with that rigorous schedule. I'm assuming he received a special exemption into the $10,000 Rochester Futures this coming week, although the main draw has not yet been posted. Fratangelo is listed as a wild card in the main draw in the Tournament Notes, as is Davis Cup practice partner Evan King.

In the upcoming $100,000 Aptos Challenger, the other two hitting partners, NCAA champions Bradley Klahn and Steve Johnson, received wild cards into the main draw, as did Jack Sock and Donald Young, who is the No. 2 seed. Tennis Panorama did this interview with Johnson in Austin this weekend.

The women's Pro Circuit event this coming week is a $10,000 tournament in Atlanta.

For the results from Pittsburgh, and the qualifying draws for the three other events this week in the US, see the Pro Circuit page at usta.com.

There was no women's ITF tournament in the US this week, but there was a $50,000 event in Waterloo, Canada, which drew a large number of Americans. Julia Boserup, who was unseeded, reached the final, where she lost today 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 to No. 5 seed Sharon Fichman of Canada. Asia Muhammad and Alexandra Mueller of the US won the doubles over Canadian junior Eugenie Bouchard and former William and Mary star Megan Moulton-Levy of the US 6-3, 3-6, 10-7.

For the results from that tournament, which did an excellent job updating results via twitter, see their website.

John Isner became the first No. 1 seed to win at in Newport in the tournament's 34 years when he beat Olivier Rochus of Belgium 6-3, 7-6(7) today. It was the former Georgia All-American's second ATP tour singles title. For more, see the ATP website. Wild cards Matthew Ebden of Australia and American Ryan Harrison won the doubles title today, beating Johan Brunstrom of Sweden and Adil Shamasdin of Canada 4-6, 6-3, 10-5. The details are at the ATP website.


Austin said...

Nice win by Brian Baker, gotta start somewhere and that was a great place to start.

US Davis Cup loss was as expected. They just cant win close matches against good talent, period. Choke after choke after choke all weekend. Roddick should have won each of the first two sets against Ferrer, Fish should have closed Lopez out, etc. Fish did a good job hanging with Ferrer, but the result did not surprise me he lost the close match. If we can't beat Spain at home in a place where Roddick lives then we just can't beat them, end of story.