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Saturday, April 28, 2012

Baker Beats Strode, Reaches Savannah Challenger Final, Wins French Open Wild Card; Northwestern Women's Impressive Streak Ends; US Jr Teams Qualify


Brian Baker is still one win short of his first Challenger title since his comeback began last July, but his match in the Savannah final against Augustin Gensse almost seems anticlimactic after his win today.  Baker beat fellow qualifier Blake Strode 6-1, 6-1 and with the victory claimed the USTA's wild card for next month's French Open. It will be Baker's first main draw match in a slam since the 2005 US Open, where, as a 20-year-old, he beat French Open champion Gaston Gaudio in the first round, lost to Xavier Malisse in the second round and shortly thereafter, had the first of five surgeries that would keep him from competing for more than five years.

As ESPN commentator Darren Cahill said tonight on twitter, "The type of comeback story you rarely see in tennis. Can't help but feel good for the guy."

In my interview with Baker at the Sunrise Futures back in January, he said, "I always wanted to come back, that was never the issue, it was just if the body would hold up." He also talks about getting out of the Futures and back into grand slams. In just over three months' time, he has done just that.  Listen to the complete interview (about five minutes in length) by clicking on the link above.

And don't overlook the great tournament Blake Strode had, with wins over Marinko Matosevic, Tim Smyczek and Peter Polansky. Will he put off Harvard Law for another year?

Complete results are at the Pro Circuit page at usta.com.

In the women's $50,000 tournament in Charlottesville, unseeded wild card Melanie Oudin will play No. 2 seed Irina Falconi in the final. Falconi is already in the French Open main draw, but Oudin is still in the running for the USTA's wild card, with next week's tournament the final chance to earn the points that will decide it.

Results are at the Pro Circuit page at usta.com.

The Pac-12 men's final between USC and UCLA is still in progress, and the Big Ten and Big 12 finals are on Sunday, but there was a major upset today in the Big Ten women's conference tournament. Top seed Northwestern, who shared the regular season title with Michigan, lost to No. 5 seed Purdue 4-2, ending their streak of conference tournament titles at 13. Last year I was in Michigan for the Big Ten women's tournament, and it looked as if Northwestern's streak would end in the final there when Michigan led 3-0, but Northwestern came back to win it. They couldn't do that today, however, and Michigan, who beat Illinois in a very close 4-0 match today, will play Purdue for the title and automatic NCAA bid.  Ohio State and Illinois will meet for the men's title for the sixth time in the last seven years. 

The US junior ITF teams competing in Mexico all went 3-0, assuring all four teams a spot in the World Junior Tennis 14-and-under finals in the Czech Republic in August and Junior Davis Cup and Junior Fed Cup in Spain in September.  Complete results can be found at the ITF junior website.