US Open News Conference with BRIAN BAKER
August 29, 2012Q. What were you doing last Labor Day weekend?
BRIAN BAKER: Last Labor Day weekend, what was I doing? I think I was probably watching a lot of this on TV because I had a little bit of a sore shoulder and had to take off a few weeks after when I came back originally I think over July 4th.
So not this, no.
Q. When you got back from Europe you seemed to have a little tough time with the transition. Was that expectation on hard courts before you could get back in the rhythm you were showing in Europe?
BRIAN BAKER: Yeah, I'm not sure exactly what the reason was, why I wasn't playing quite as well.
I mean, because I have played on hard court my whole life, so it's not something that hard court is like a bad surface for me or anything like that.
It could have been possibly a little bit of a letdown. It's hard to have such a high up and maintain that. I'm a competitor. I was frustrated for a lot of this summer hard court season and just didn't feel I was playing my best tennis.
Lost a couple of close matches that I felt like if I won could have maybe loosened up and started playing at the level I know I'm capable of. Like I said before, I'm not sure exactly that one thing, but I definitely feel better about my game now.
Q. Talk a little bit about today, how the match went.
BRIAN BAKER: Yeah, I had some nerves. I don't think it was probably the prettiest match ever. A win is a win. I felt like when I needed to I played well. I'm not sure exactly the break point stats, but I know I didn't get broken and was probably pretty high percentage on my conversion rate.
That was the difference today.
Q. Did you notice a lot of changes to the place since you were last here? Did certain things strike you about being back?
BRIAN BAKER: A little bit. I mean, the general layout is the same, but the locker room's definitely changed a ton. It's a lot bigger.
Let's see, what else? The eating is pretty much the same. I think like the workout facility used to be on the bottom floor. They've changed that.
Court 17 obviously wasn't here. But the main stuff, like the outside courts, all look about the same. I think the biggest difference is just the eating area and then the workout facility or not the eating area, sorry, the workout facility.
Q. Did you come back and feel like you could fit right back in?
BRIAN BAKER: Yeah, that stuff was an easy transition. I think just getting out and not having played the US Open in seven years and having expectations and having a lot of friends and family just gives you I mean, it's good nerves. I think it helps you focus a little bit more and want it a little bit more, but it was exciting time to be back after so much time off.
Q. People are asking about where is men's tennis in the U.S. Any of your thoughts on that or how you'd like to just be a part of that, or just leave that alone and do your own stuff?
BRIAN BAKER: Yeah, I mean, I'm not one that's gonna try to be the savior of U.S. tennis or anything like that. I don't feel like we're doing poorly at all. It's just we're coming off a generation that did see well. The game is so global these days. The top three or four guys in the world are probably one of the top three or four that's ever played.
We're working hard, and I'm sure that we'll get back.
Q. How are you different as a player today from when you last set foot on the court here?
BRIAN BAKER: Well, seven years older. That's one.
No, I definitely think I'm more mature. Handled the ups and downs a little bit better in the match. I've got through a lot of adversity over the years, and every match you're going to have adversity. How you deal with that can sometimes mean the difference between winning and losing.
I'm better in that aspect. I think my serve and my forehand are a little bit better. I proved that today on my serve, but I also feel like just a little bit stronger. I think the last time I played here was 19, 20 years old; being 27, just a little bit stronger.
Q. How much are you past the novelty of your story and making it back to where you are to where it's more routine?
BRIAN BAKER: It's a little tough. I mean, a lot different having to deal with all the media requests and spending all that time. But, you know, I'm a competitive person and always want to do more and more and better and better, so it hasn't been too tough to put all this stuff behind me and just focus on tennis.
Q. Where did you play your last match here, do you remember?
BRIAN BAKER: I believe it was Grandstand against Malisse.
Q. What are your thoughts on your next match?
BRIAN BAKER: I play a guy top 10 in the world, so it's going to be a tough match. I haven't played him since junior Wimbledon. Might have been like 2001 or 2002. Haven't even practiced with him since then.
I'll have to get the game plan together and watch some tape and try to formulate something that will be in my favor. I know it will be a really tough match. I'll have to, you know, recover and give it everything I have.
But honestly, you know, I have to go out there and enjoy the moment and play loose.
Q. What happened in that match more than 10 years ago?
BRIAN BAKER: Oh, he beat me. He was the No. 1 seed. I think it was three sets, though.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about your physical preparation and also your recovery and just the precautions you're taking about your body and that process?
BRIAN BAKER: Right. Well, I have hired a trainer the last several weeks. Just doing the little things. That's what it is about me. You can't train super hard when you're playing week in and week out.
You know, I'm not going to crush my body just because I'm still probably haven't built up the base enough that I want to to be able to crush it during tournaments. But just all the little rehab stuff: doing the bands, making sure I'm stretching, massaging, and then recovering.
It's just the same as probably everybody else, you know. You have to eat well and hydrate well. If anything's bothering you, get it taken care of in the training room. Just pack on the calories for the three out of five set matches.
Q. Do you have a greater appreciation for the opportunity to play in Grand Slams as a 27 year old than you did, say, as a 20 year old?
BRIAN BAKER: Oh, for sure. I think just being older and, you know, knowing how easy the game was taken away from me, it's very easy to appreciate it a lot. I don't take anything for granted.
I remember several years watching it on TV wishing I was here, so just to be here is an awesome feeling. And then at the same time, the competitive side kicks over and I want to do really well.
Q. Beyond appreciation, expectations? What are your expectations?
BRIAN BAKER: There are more expectations now after the summer I had. Honestly I feel like I play my best when I do have some expectations or healthy expectations.
But, you know, I'm going to go out there. I'm the underdog the next match. Of course I'm going to go in there expecting to win, but I'm going to have to play a great match.
The only way I will do that is play loose and go for my shots.
Q. If I have it right, you're not playing any league tennis this summer. How is the dad, uncle doing there?
BRIAN BAKER: I think the league is over now. Actually, I have no idea where they are. I'm not going to beat around the bush. Honestly, the league tennis, it wasn't something I was playing all the time. I was just filling in every now and again.
But it was fun to be able to play on the same team as my dad and my uncle.
Q. You spoke about watching from afar the last several years. At what point did you think, Well, I'm never going to be back, and at what point did you think, Well, I will be back?
BRIAN BAKER: I never had that thought that, you know, I'm never going to be back.
Of course you are realistic and you know you might not be back, but I never once, you know, waved the white towel and said, I'm not going to try anymore.
Then I guess the second part of that question, when I thought I'd be back probably not even until this summer or this late spring when I started making my run.
Because last year, you know, I had a few decent tournaments that got me up I think I got to the finals of a challenger. You're not really expecting to play Grand Slams until you're top 150, 200 in the world to get into quallies.
I had kind that have amazing run early where I strung I lot of matches together. I think when I got the wildcard for the French is when I finally, Okay, now I'm back playing some Grand Slams, and was able to play on that momentum all summer.
I have been looking forward to playing the Open for 10 weeks now.
Q. What do you think it says about you that you never did wave the white flag given all that you went through?
BRIAN BAKER: Just perseverance and competitiveness and knowing that I've spent so much time and sacrificed so much for this sport and for my career, that if I ever had the opportunity I'd give it another go.
I know that in some format I'd like to stay in the game of tennis even after I'm done playing. So just coming back and just kind of showing everybody, like, Hey, I'm still around, that was another, you know, just reason for trying to make a comeback.
But honestly, like I have said many times, it's just been a blast this last year, and I hope I keep it going for several more.
Q. Your dad was talking about the first time you came to this you were eight years old.
BRIAN BAKER: Yeah, I still have the poster in my room.
Q. Do you remember much about that night?
BRIAN BAKER: I remember some. I don't remember every day, but I definitely remember the Pernfors Wilander match. I think it was on Louis Armstrong where I was there until 2:30, 3:00 in the morning. We started up higher up, and then by like 1:00 a.m. they let everybody move down closer to the courts.
I remember also watching Sampras and holding up the 120 miles per hour signs, which now I guess you'd have to change that to like 135. There are a few memories like that that stick out for sure.
I remember being with my brother and sister my mom didn't make it. It was a fun time and I was already big into tennis, but that even made it even more just being able to see the biggest stage in the U.S. for tennis.
Q. How did you feel about the energy today when you were you're on court?
BRIAN BAKER: No, it was good. It was an outside court, but definitely had the crowd support. Had, you know, my girlfriend; several members of my friends and family were here.
They didn't let me slide. I started a few games pretty poorly at the end, and they kind of got on me and was able to push me through.
Q. Can you recall anything interesting about watching last year's Open, anything interesting? Did you follow it closely?
BRIAN BAKER: Not super closely. You know, I just remember at my house back home just
like every time watching the night matches and then pulling for my buddies that were still playing, the other U.S. guys.
Just, you know, I kind of had the taste in my mouth because I had just gotten back playing. So it was disappointing not really disappointing that I wasn't playing just because I had just started but it definitely got the juices going thinking this is where I want to be in a year.
I don't know if I was really expecting to be here in a year in the position that I'm in. Definitely one of those things where, you know, you watch it and you're hopeful.
Q. Does it feel like a new normal in the respect that this is a Grand Slam you didn't have to qualify for, you didn't get a wildcard for? Does it feel like a recalibration in terms of both your preparation and expectations entering something like this?
BRIAN BAKER: Well, hopefully it will get normal, but this is the first Grand Slam I have played where I haven't had to qually or get a wildcard.
It's always exciting to play the Open, but that was another sense of just pride knowing I had done it on my own. I hope to be able to play several more US Opens, but I don't take any of them for granted.
My mind is in the present right now, and I still have a long way to go this next couple of weeks.