In our never-ending quest to find athletes proving they were Born For This, we must celebrate ADNA athlete Brian Baker. Brian began his tennis career early (by the age of 2 ½ as you’ll learn in the interview below), but suffered an unlucky streak of injuries that took him from French Open hopeful in 2005, to again French Open hopeful returning to Paris almost a decade later.
Brian was first stricken with a wrist injury that pulled him from the game for 10 weeks. Shortly after recovering, he tore his MCL in a Wimbledon qualifying match against Djokovic. Brian nursed his knee and resumed playing, only to then feel pain in his left hip. Hip surgery came, shortly followed by surgery for a sports hernia. Meanwhile, Brian’s elbow never quit bothering him, particularly during his serve, leading to Tommy John surgery. Next up, two more surgeries on his left and right hip – all by the age of 23.
At this point, Brian took some time to go back to college and let his body heal. He was amazed to find that hitting with the college team didn’t hurt. In fact his body responded well to training. He entered small regional tournaments, paid his own way, drove for hours, and won some payouts. It wasn’t a comeback yet, but his body kept going.
Going Back to the French Open
That leads us to his recent success in Georgia and Florida. The USTA awarded Brian a main-draw berth to next weekend’s French Open based on his title win in Savannah, and second round finish in Sarasota.
From the moment Brian knew he wanted tennis to be his life, he sacrificed a normal childhood, missed classes, school events, and parties with his friends. He played in Europe by the time he was 12, became the top 18-and-under U.S. player at age 15, and was once summoned to Andy Roddick’s Florida house to play tennis in the backyard, according to an interview with him in the Wall Street Journal.
PHOTOS BY JAE S. LEE / THE TENNESSEAN
When was the first time you touched a racket?
I was about 2 ½ years old. We had a tennis court in the backyard, and it helped that I had two older siblings who played.
Why do you focus on tennis over other sports?
Although I enjoy a lot of other sports such as basketball and baseball, I have a passion for the individual aspect of tennis. I love knowing that I control my own destiny every day. Also, I have the most talent in tennis. (Don’t talk like that Brian, we bet you’re pretty good with a baseball bat too!)
If not playing tennis, what do you think you would be doing right now with your life?
I would probably be finishing my college degree. After that, I would either be trying to get my foot in the door of college coaching, or doing something with finance.
Why do you like to wear Athletic DNA clothes?
I like ADNA because the clothes are high quality, and are very colorful. I also really like the fact that ADNA focuses on tennis, while all of the other big companies focus on clothing and accessories for many sports.
Do you have any tips for the junior players looking to follow in your footsteps?
My advice is to have no regrets. Give everything you have every day, and then you can never second guess yourself. In addition, tennis is becoming more-and-more physical, so taking care of your body is a must.
Is tennis gaining popularity and fame?
I’m not sure if tennis is gaining more popularity, but I think the men’s game is in great shape. There are several great rivalries out there now, and the tennis is amazing. One idea to increase the popularity of the game is to find a way to incorporate more Pro-Ams during Pro events. Bringing the fans and sponsors closer to the players definitely can’t hurt.