August 29, 2005
NEW YORK CITY
THE MODERATOR: First question, please.
Q. Where did that level of tennis come from in a Grand Slam?
BRIAN BAKER: I think I've always had it in me, I just haven't quite been able to put it together for a whole match. And felt like I played really well. I mean, there was a couple times where I had a few loose points and so... But, overall, yeah, it was a great effort out there.
Q. What were your expectations going into that match?
BRIAN BAKER: I think you have to go into every match expecting to win and give yourself a chance. Otherwise, you shouldn't go out there. But obviously I realized I needed to play really well to win. I thought that obviously he's a lot better on clay, so I just tried to pressure him a little bit on the forehand and trying just to make the points on my terms instead of on his. And most of the time I was able to do that.
Q. How much were you hurting? You took that medical time-out.
BRIAN BAKER: Right.
Q. It looked like you were limping a bit?
BRIAN BAKER: I think it was a little bit of maybe anxiety cramps or something. After like a game or so after I got the rub on the leg, I was okay. So I don't think it was too big of a deal. But it was bothering me at the time.
Q. Has it happened before?
BRIAN BAKER: It has happened before. It's something I've battled in the past. But hopefully I can get over it and I'll be fine.
Q. Was it cramps?
BRIAN BAKER: A little bit of cramps in my quads. Never locked up on me. But I think it was just a little nerves. But I was fine at the end of the match.
Q. How much time did you miss because of the wrist injury?
BRIAN BAKER: I was out pretty much right after Memphis, which is the middle of February, till I think I played my first tournament back the first week of May. So long time. Couple months.
Q. Can you in any way quantify the setback, how much time it cost you in terms of --
BRIAN BAKER: Well, I mean, I came back and actually got to the finals of my first tournament back, a challenger in Tunica. I was lucky to come back fast. I played through, had a pretty decent summer until Wimbledon quallies. First game of the match I actually had a grade I tear on my MCL, I slipped. I actually had two injuries this year. I've been out a lot. It's definitely taken a toll on conditioning and just being able to play a lot.
Q. You mentioned that obviously he's a lot better on clay. When you play a clay court specialist in a tournament on hard court, when you see that in a draw do you see opportunities there that you wouldn't see?
BRIAN BAKER: Well, you do. But he's Top 10 in the world so he can play on every surface. Obviously, he has done much better on clay. But if you're Top 10 in the world it's not like you're going to be a slosh on hard court. I knew I'd have to come out there and play my best tennis, and fortunately I did.
Q. Did you feel you matched up well against him?
BRIAN BAKER: Yeah, I think his backhand's his best shot and mine is, too. So, I mean, I felt like my ball's a little bit flatter so I could try to take advantage of it on the hard court, even though grandstand is really not that fast. So I think I served well at times and I was able to attack his second serve fairly well.
Q. Victories in this tournament by American men not named Roddick and Agassi have been pretty rare. Do you think this says anything particularly meaningful for American men's tennis?
BRIAN BAKER: I mean, Ginepri's had a great summer this summer, and obviously Andy and Andre are carrying the load right now. But I think there's a lot of guys coming up that if put in the right situation can start doing some damage. But, no, I mean, a lot of the younger guys like I've been traveling around with, Amer Delic, Bobby Reynolds, Rajeev Ram, I feel like we have the game but we haven't put it together in the right time. I was very fortunate today. I played good tennis in a big-time match.
Q. What's your dream result in tennis? What's the one thing you'd most like to achieve?
BRIAN BAKER: Ever since I was a little kid you always dream about being Top 10 in the world and winning a Grand Slam. I know that's a long way away right now, but hopefully with a lot of hard work, getting a little bit better, maybe I can accomplish those things down the road.
Q. Is your best shot here?
BRIAN BAKER: I don't really know. This is the tournament for Americans that you always want to win. But probably the not the French, even though I've done well on clay in the past. But, I mean, I don't know if there's like exactly one that I think I have a better shot on, you know.
Q. The last couple of years I know one of your goals was to get physically stronger.
BRIAN BAKER: Right.
Q. Can you discuss what precisely you've been doing in terms of getting stronger, and is there any way to gauge how much stronger you are?
BRIAN BAKER: Right. No, I've been working hard at home with a guy that I train with and also I trained in Miami with Mike Nishihara who's a trainer there. Like I said, this year I've been out almost four and a half months with injuries. It's been tough. With my wrist I was able to workout a lot on my lower body, but at Wimbledon I hurt my knee so it was tough to keep that going. It's been an up-and-down year. I've been able to come back from injury pretty well, but it's still hard when it's still hurting to train it, overtrain it. I'm looking forward to getting it back this fall and having a good fall.
Q. How much stronger do you think you need to get in order to compete consistently at this level?
BRIAN BAKER: Right. I mean, I think it's a lot of strength and flexibility. And I think just later on in the next three or four years, automatically I'm going to get a little bit bigger, but I obviously need to get more physically strong, and I don't know if there's like an exact like way to measure it. But, I mean, I do need to keep on improving in that area.
Q. Injuries aside, did you expect to go up the rankings faster than you have after you reached the Roland Garros final?
BRIAN BAKER: I'd say a little bit yes and no. I mean, last year I had a good year. I mean, I finished 170 first year on tour. I mean, I thought I could have done a little bit better. I didn't have the best fall. But this year obviously I had high expectations. And with the injuries, it's been really tough. I slipped back, I think even outside the Top 200. But this year actually I've done better per tournament I've played, I just haven't been able to get out there as much. I'm hoping to have a really strong fall and get back in like the Top 120, see how well I can do.
Q. As a fellow from Nashville, are you into that country music?
BRIAN BAKER: I'm actually not the biggest fan of country music. Not everybody is down there. I mean, a lot of people are. I always get that question asked. Some songs I can handle, but I'm not a country music fan, no.
Q. I saw you were practicing out there the other day with a knee brace. Is that a precaution?
BRIAN BAKER: Right, yeah, I mean, it was no big deal. I just wanted to see if it would feel better in the knee brace or not. I don't actually like wearing the knee brace that much. It feel like it constricts my movement a little bit. I didn't have any trouble today with the knee brace, I just decided not to go with it.
Q. Talk about how it feels to get that first Grand Slam win against a Top 10 player?
BRIAN BAKER: I'd take any Grand Slam victory right now, but especially to be able to play on grandstand with a great atmosphere. I think most of the fans were behind me. It was just great to be able to come up and finish it. It was a great feeling.
Q. What about the Titans?
BRIAN BAKER: I'm a big Titans fan even though I feel like we're going to have another bad year this year, which I'm a little down about.
Q. Difficult to be a Titans fan now?
BRIAN BAKER: A little bit. Especially when they're giving away our best players and I don't really know which way it's going. Other people on my team, like Bobby Reynolds and my coach, are big Steelers fans. So we have first game of the season's at Steelers, so I've been taking a lot of heat for that. Hopefully, we can step it up.
Q. Realistically, if you play as well as you're capable of, how far can you go?
BRIAN BAKER: I'm just looking at my next match right now, which I play Malisse, I think. I'm pretty sure he won. Obviously, he's a former top - I can't remember how high he got - but he's a great player and he still is. I mean, I'm going to have to play just as well again just to beat him.
Q. You talk about everything coming together at this point, why you were able to win. Was it the injuries that stunted it?
BRIAN BAKER: Pretty much, I mean, this year. It's hard missing four and a half months. It wasn't just at one time. It was two months here, two months there. It was hard to -- I mean, I've been playing well. Still haven't quite found that one tournament. Hopefully this can be it.
Q. When you won the Orange Bowl, did you come away from that thinking it might be a little easier than it has been in the last couple years?
BRIAN BAKER: Not really. I mean, I mean, if you look at past champions, it sure looks that way. But, I mean, junior tennis and pro tennis are totally different things. I think most of the kids nowadays -- when I was playing, the junior tennis was still strong. It seems nowadays most of them are skipping that and going more to the futures and satellites. Yeah, I expected that I'd do well, but I knew it would be an uphill climb the first little bit just because you're going to take a lot more losing coming to the pro circuit because it's so much deeper and there's so many good players.
Q. If I'm not mistaken, you're 20 years old right now. But we see in tennis a lot of guys achieving things at young ages.
BRIAN BAKER: Right.
Q. Is it disheartening at all that your first major victory comes at 20 or do you still feel young?
BRIAN BAKER: 20's still young. Obviously, you have guys couple years younger than me doing well. But the majority of people, it takes a couple years, learning curve, to really make your mark. Yeah, I would have loved to have done a little bit better, but I'm still happy where I am. And with hard work, I hope I can get up there.
Q. When you're on the road with your group of guys, what's the general talk about American men's tennis?
BRIAN BAKER: I don't know if there's a general talk, but, I mean, we feel like there's a lot of guys, up-and-coming guys like at the challenger level, that we feel like, I mean, we can play well at times, but we just haven't really put a tournament together and just really -- I don't really know why we haven't done that well. But we're working hard. I guess the general consensus would be we just need I guess a little bit more experience under our belts and need a breakthrough win. Hopefully this can be mine.
Q. A lot of it is mental and confidence?
BRIAN BAKER: A lot of it is mental and confidence. Bobby Reynolds, for example, he didn't have a great fall at all last year. Quallied and got to the third round of the Australian Open and sort of jump started his year and he's had a great summer as well. I think a lot of it is confidence, just believing you can play up here.
Q. Is there a little bit of a group think? In other words, when others are having breakthroughs, would that help the group as a whole?
BRIAN BAKER: I think so. I mean, obviously, when you have other people in your group doing a lot better than you, I don't want to say jealousy, but it's more, "Hey, if he's doing it, I mean, there's no reason why I can't do it. I don't want to be left behind." So I just want to step it up and try to go on right through them. I think it takes one person in the group to step up and show everybody else in the group, yeah, we can do this too.
Q. What about James and Robby having good results?
BRIAN BAKER: Yeah, we're not quite in contact with them all that much. But, yeah, it's great to see Americans starting to do well again because, I mean, it does well for the sport in our country.
Q. Bobby Reynolds, have you known him for some time?
BRIAN BAKER: Yeah, I knew him a little bit in Juniors but not really until he came to Vanderbilt. But that was probably four or five years ago.
Q. Train with him?
BRIAN BAKER: Yeah, I used to train a little bit with the guys, I mean, not during practice but we'd hit aside of that.
Q. I think you mentioned you won a challenger event in Tunica?
BRIAN BAKER: No, I got to the finals.
Q. To the finals?
BRIAN BAKER: Yeah.
Q. What other communities have you played those challenger events in lately, or before your injury?
BRIAN BAKER: Everywhere. Uhm, I played, uhm, a couple like Tunica, Forest Hills on clay before, and then I went overseas and played one in Germany, one in England.
Q. What community in Germany?
BRIAN BAKER: I think it's called Ettlingen. A small town called Ettlingen, I think it's an hour from Stuttgart. Then Surbiton in England and when I came back I played Lexington and Binghamton, New York.
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