Q. Brian, getting the wild card, talk to me a little bit about what you want to see from yourself the next couple months.
BRIAN BAKER: Yeah, I mean, I just want to kind of keep the momentum going. I've been playing well the last couple months. I'm still not even a year back of playing full‑time tennis. I started last July. I feel like I'm just now kind of hitting my stride.
I don't have any specific expectations this summer that I have to get to a certain round or get this many points. But I'd love to keep on playing great tennis. I think I'll be over there four or five weeks. Obviously the French will be the biggest one.
Hopefully out of the five weeks I'm over there, I can continue playing well and try to jump up in the rankings.
Q. Have you decided whether you're going to play Nice quallies?
BRIAN BAKER: I am. I'm actually leaving a week from tomorrow, Wednesday the 16th, to go over to Nice. I think the quallies start the 19th. Whenever that tournament finishes up, I'll head to Paris.
Q. Talk about when you made it to the final in the juniors.
BRIAN BAKER: Yeah, it was a great tournament. For some reason I've always had success on clay throughout my career. That tournament is a pretty special tournament. I think I beat Baghdatis in the quarters, Tsonga in the semis and then lost a tough three‑setter to Wawrinka in the final.
I think it's nice to go back to a place where you have good memories and played well before, even though I guess it's been eight or nine years since that happened. I don't know how much stock you can put into that, but it doesn't hurt to have some good memories.
Q. Can you specifically say why you think clay suits your game?
BRIAN BAKER: You know, there's not probably one reason that it fits my game. I've embraced it. Like, I don't have a negative attitude towards clay, thinking I have no chance when I go out there.
Definitely confident in my ability. I have an all‑court game, have some variety. I think that helps when the points are generally longer, you have to construct the points a little bit more as opposed to one or two shots on a hard court. That's probably the main reason. I can use some touch and mix in some spin as well.
Q. Brian, did you know about this before you signed up for those two challengers?
BRIAN BAKER: Yeah, I did. I received an email, which I'm sure all the other U.S. players did, saying the person who got the most cumulative points between the two would get the wild card. It wasn't something I put up on the bulletin and this is what I'm going to do, but it was nice to know that everybody that played it had a shot, every American that played it had a shot to get it.
I knew I had done well on clay in the past. It wasn't something I was stressing out about before the two tournaments. By the time I won a couple rounds, I knew I was in the thick of things, could kind of control my own destiny going forward.
Q. What about having to qualify? Was that a good thing in your mind for those tournaments or was that something that added risk to your chances?
BRIAN BAKER: I mean, probably going into it I would have said it would have been a negative thing just because it put extra matches on your body. Maybe it will help you play better getting into the first or second round of the main draw, but normally it will fatigue you a little bit for the later rounds.
I was fortunate enough in Savannah to get through quallies fairly easily. I didn't have any matches. I felt like it helped my game, you know, getting used to those conditions there, match‑like conditions, before anybody else in the main draw could. It didn't affect me later on in the tournament because I still felt fresh.
Q. Do you think you would have been invited to a wild card tournament if they hadn't have done it in this fashion?
BRIAN BAKER: You know, I don't know. I really don't know. Maybe not just because I'm still coming back. I'm just now getting my ranking back to a respectable level. So honestly I don't know.
Q. Then I assume you approve of this process compared to the other one?
BRIAN BAKER: Well, yeah. I mean, obviously if you're the one you know you're going to get picked, it's better chances for you if you know there's only eight people vying for it. I think this is a fair way to do it.
Like Melanie said, you have situations where somebody can get a better draw than another. If you play another American, I mean, I don't think you can complain about that. But maybe if you're playing another tough foreigner in a first round instead of a semi‑or a final, if you're going to win the wild card, you're going to have to at least do well at a couple of the tournaments or win one. Doesn't really matter when you play a great player. You have to beat everybody. I think this was a fair way to do it. Obviously I liked the way things turned out.
Q. Brian, this will be your first major Grand Slam since 2005. How satisfying does that make your comeback? What sort of expectations do you have? Are you nervous, excited about playing a Grand Slam for the first time in almost seven years?
BRIAN BAKER: Yeah, no, I mean, I'm really excited for the opportunity. I mean, one of the main reasons for coming back was to come back and try to compete to get in the main draw of Grand Slams. I mean, Grand Slams are kind of like the pinnacle of tennis. That's the biggest tournaments each year. Anytime you can play one, it's a great accomplishment. I'm really looking forward to it.
Of course, I'll probably be a little bit nervous going out there. But overall, I'm not putting too much pressure on myself. I just want to go out there and give myself the best chance to succeed. Doing that, you just have to go out and prepare the same way you do for any other tournament.
Q. How is your elbow and hip? Are you feeling good again?
BRIAN BAKER: Yeah, I mean, I'm still in a process of trying to get as fit as I can. I'm still able to put in more time each week off the court than I have been able to.
The body right now, it's feeling better than it has in a long time. Last year, coming back, I couldn't play a full schedule. After I played like eight matches in a week tournaments, because I had to get through qualifying, I had to take a couple weeks off and recover. Whereas this year, I've been able to play a normal schedule.
I'm hopeful I'll be able to do the same thing the rest of the year and not worry too much about my body.
Q. Has the comeback been what you expected since you last played? Has it been better? Has what you achieved exceeded your own expectations?
BRIAN BAKER: I've always had confidence in my ability if I was able to stay healthy. The tour definitely has changed. Coming back, having to play futures after not having to play them since I was 18, 19 years old. Different scenario when you're one of the oldest guys playing instead of one of the youngest.
Quickly getting out of futures, getting into challengers, I still have some buddies I used to train with and turned pro with. It's definitely been a lot more fun doing that. Hopefully I can keep pushing through and hopefully start playing some more ATPs.
Q. The motivation to come back last year, was it, Why not give it a try?
BRIAN BAKER: Right. I felt like I had some unfinished business. It's not like I stopped tennis because I just got tired of it. It was taken away because my body wouldn't hold up. I always wanted to come back, it was just whether I could or not.
When I started feeling good enough to give it a go, I wanted for sure to do that. I didn't want to be 35 and have to look back and be like, I wish I had given it one other shot, if for anything else, just for peace of mind.
Q. How beneficial do you think the Pro Circuit has been for your comebacks?
BRIAN BAKER: Yeah, I mean, even when I was playing before, I played mostly in the States. It's nice to have so many tournaments that are available to play so you don't have to travel as much.
I think it's a great place to improve your game, kind of see what you need to do to take it to the next level. I mean, I had a lot of success on the Pro Circuit. I'm very grateful that I've had a chance to play in the States. A lot of countries don't have those opportunities.
Q. Melanie, in year past the Americans have struggled a bit on clay, specifically last year. How do you personally approach the French as well as the Americans as a whole? How do you see them being able to garner more success this year?
Q. Brian, could you answer the same question.
BRIAN BAKER: Yeah, I mean, I definitely have enjoyed playing on clay throughout my career. I definitely have embraced it and I'm looking forward to going over there and trying to have good results.
With the other Americans, we didn't grow up on this stuff, so it is a little bit of a disadvantage going over there. If you really want to improve on the clay, it starts at a younger age. The 14‑ and 15‑year‑olds start to get more practice on it. As we saw in Davis Cup in France, John Isner had a couple great wins on clay. There are several other Americans capable of doing well on clay. I think it depends on the day and who they play.
But I think there's definitely a couple Americans out there that can go deep in the tournament, for sure.
TIM CURRY: Thanks, everyone, for joining us for the call. Thanks, Melanie, for taking some time before heading to the airport, and, Brian, taking time from your training.
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