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Baker leads charge of walking wounded

Five operations in three years; three years to recover; off tour since 2005. Unheralded American Brian Baker is shaping up as the French Open miracle man.

sports Updated: May 30, 2012 00:25 IST

Five operations in three years; three years to recover; off tour since 2005. Unheralded American Brian Baker is shaping up as the French Open miracle man.

The 27-year-old won his first and only Grand Slam match way back at the US Open in 2005 when, playing on a wildcard, he defeated former French Open champion Gaston Gaudio.

That was until late Monday night when he beat Belgian veteran Xavir Malisse on his much postponed French Open debut.

It was a memorable victory coming after a forgettable six-year period which saw Baker undergo left hip surgery, a hernia operation, another left hip procedure, right hip surgery and an elbow operation.

After three years of recuperation, Baker returned to the Challenger Tour in the middle of last year to launch his late shot at glory.

"It's definitely been a fun, cool ride," said world 141 Baker, who is playing on a wildcard in Paris.

"It's something I didn't envision a couple of months ago or a year ago. But in the last couple of weeks my game has come together and I am feeling a lot healthier." Baker, the runner-up in the boy's tournament in 2003, has looked liked he had never been away in recent weeks, making a shock run to the Nice claycourt final last week where he was defeated by Spain's Nicolas Almagro.

"I never really had that one moment when I thought I would throw in the towel. But you have to be realistic. You maybe have to see what there is outside tennis," he said.

Baker still hit balls during his convalesence, but as an assistant coach at an American college rather than a player.