MELBOURNE, Australia -- By rights, Brian Baker should have gotten all of his bad fortune out of the way. Multiple surgeries on his hips, one on his elbow and a hernia repair kept the former top junior out of the elite ranks for six years.
One area of his body that had never given him any trouble was his knees -- until the injury gods hurled another bolt of lousy lightning at him Wednesday.
Chris Hyde/Getty ImagesBrian Baker grimaces after injuring his knee in the second set of his match against fellow American Sam Querrey.
Baker had won a first-set tiebreak from compatriot Sam Querrey in their Australian Open second-round match on a breezy outer court whose surface, Querrey would later say, was the quickest he's played on at a Slam. Tied 1-all on Querrey's serve in the second, Baker went to fetch a backhand, took a step or two back toward the center of the court and appeared to stumble, then seize up, grimacing in pain. He couldn't put weight on his right leg and hobbled toward his chair.
Moments later, the two friends shook hands and the chair umpire announced the match was over. Baker told Querrey he thought he heard "a pop or a snap" and that from one second to the next, he couldn't straighten his knee. Baker slumped dejectedly with a towel over his head, waiting for a wheelchair to ferry him away. A sideline microphone picked up some of his conversation with the trainer as he described the sensation of "something rubbing back and forth."
"How does this happen?" Baker said at one point.
How indeed? Bad enough that two American men had to collide this early in the draw in the first Grand Slam event of this transitional, post-Andy Roddick era, but Baker had hiked an awfully long way up the mountain to backslide through no fault of his own again.
The 25-year-old, 20th-seeded Querrey is the top U.S. player in the draw thanks to John Isner's injury-related withdrawal. But Querrey made it clear to reporters after winning a four-set, first-round match against Spanish qualifier Daniel Munoz-De La Nava that status isn't weighing on him.
"Whatever pressure he feels is what he puts on himself," said his coach, David Nainkin. "He's got his own goals. He's well-prepared, he's healthy, he's in a good place.
"Today, the court definitely favored Brian. Sam likes a higher bounce. It was good, clean hitting, and Brian has great timing. I thought their level was getting better through the [first] set. It would have been a good match. It's just a shame."
Querrey has never thrived at this event, reaching the third round twice in six previous appearances and bowing out in the first round three straight times from 2009 to '11. Much as he'd like to go deeper, Wednesday's sequence of events was the opposite of the scenario he would have wanted.
American Sam Querrey now faces Switzerland's 15th-seeded Stanislas Wawrinka, who also advanced because of a player retirement.
"I feel awful for him," Querrey said of Baker. "He's the last person that deserves anything like that with his five or six surgeries already. He does everything right, treats his body great, just trying to come back, and then something like that happens, it's just so unlucky."
An MRI revealed Baker has a torn lateral meniscus that will require surgery and roughly three to four months of rehab. Tournament director Craig Tiley said Baker likely will fly back to the United States in the next day or two......