Brian Baker is riding the comeback wave of a lifetime.
The 27-year-old from Nashville, Tenn., is no stranger to Roland Garros Stadium, but not as a professional player. In 2003, Baker took down the likes of Marcos Baghdatis and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the French Open junior tournament, where his only loss came in the finals to Stanislas Wawrinka. Baker turned pro later that year and went on to reach his career-high world ranking of No. 172.
In 2005, Baker had his biggest—and only—win in a major tournament after an upset victory over ninth-seeded Gaston Gaudio in the first round of the US Open.
However, it’s been six tough years for Baker since then.
Baker physically broke down and was forced to undergo five major surgeries, including his left hip twice, right hip, sports hernia and a Tommy John elbow procedure.
During his time away from the game rehabbing, the determined Baker went back to college. He is working to receive his degree in business from Belmont University and expects to graduate next year.
When Baker isn’t in the classroom, he’s at a place he loves…the tennis court. Although he cannot play for the Belmont Bruins due to his professional status, Baker is in his fourth season as an assistant coach for Belmont’s men’s tennis team.
Since getting back on court earlier this year, Baker has been on fire. Most recently, he dominated on clay in April at the Savannah Challenger in Georgia. His prize was far more than a crystal vase—Brian received the USTA wild-card berth into the 2012 French Open.
Unlike most Americans, Baker is at home on clay. Friday, he took down Nikolay Davydenko (once ranked No. 2 in the world). Davydenko beat No. 11 John Isner the day before.
Baker has advanced to Open de Nice’s final, where he will take on Nicolas Almagro of Spain. In the first round of the French Open, he's set to face No. 80 Xavier Malisse from Belgium.
With his first ATP final Saturday, and the 2012 French Open starting Sunday, Baker is finally making his way to the top.