A good Jamie article - http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article...239235,00.html
Wild ride to Wimbledon can set the stage for better things
By Jamie Baker
IN THE summer of 2005, when I was ranked about No 500 in the world, I decided to bypass the grass-court season to try to improve my standing and my chances of competing on the surface in 2006. At No 290 at the end of last month, I had put myself in a position to do that. With Wimbledon only a few days away, I could not have dreamt of some of the experiences I have had as preparation.
My overriding memory of the grass-court season as a junior is how thick and fast the matches seemed to come. But my junior experiences were relaxed compared with my past three weeks.
It all got off to a bad start at the Surbiton Trophy. I produced one of my worst performances of the year and lost to Richard Bloomfield, a fellow Briton, in the first round. I was straight on to the practice court to try to re-establish some confidence on a surface I had not played on for two years. After being given a wild card into the main draw of the Stella Artois Championships at Queen’s Club, I played an exhibition match against Paradorn Srichaphan, the world No 36 from Thailand, also at Surbiton. He was by far the highest-ranked player I had played against. I performed well and after splitting the first two sets, I lost in a tie-break.
The day before I played my first round at Queen’s, it was announced that I had been given a main-draw wild card into Wimbledon. The moment I found out was surreal. I had just been told that a lifelong dream was going to come true, yet I spent no time thinking about it. I was 100 per cent focused on my match the next day against Mardy Fish.
That match and the few days that followed were probably the biggest learning experience of my life. I lost 6-1, 6-3, with my American opponent playing extremely well after winning the title in Surbiton.
After Queen’s, I headed to Nottingham. I had a comfortable win in my first round in the qualifying draw. In the second round I faced Filip Prpic, from Sweden, ranked No 195, whom I had lost to on two previous occasions. Prpic became the highest-ranked scalp of my career after a 6-3, 6-0 victory. This was confirmation of how quickly I had learnt from my opportunities.
In the final round of qualifying, I played Danai Udomchoke, the world No 97 from Thailand. My performance was further confirmation of my new level, even though I lost 6-4, 3-6, 6-1. I was happy with my performance, but I am never happy at losing, no matter who my opponent is.
The day after losing my final-round qualifying match, I was given a place in the Boodles Challenge exhibition tournament at the Stoke Park Club, in Buckinghamshire. In the field are ten of the world’s top 20 — one of them being Andre Agassi. Within ten minutes of knowing I was in the tournament, I was told I would be playing Agassi. I could not believe it. One of my dreams was to become good enough to play against Agassi. Suddenly, it was about to happen.
The key was to try to enjoy it and that was what I did. I needed to focus and almost forget that I was playing one of my heroes. I lost 6-4, 6-4, but the match was the most elating experience of my career.
My goal is to make the last three weeks and my Wimbledon experience the end of one chapter of my tennis life and the beginning of a new one.
Good luck at Wimbledon, Jamie