PARIS -- Nine years ago, Brian Baker finished as the world's No. 7-ranked junior, one spot behind Andy Murray and ahead of, among others, Richard Gasquet, Tomas Berdych and a spare 16-year-old Serb named Novak Djokovic, who came in at No. 118.
"Actually, he was one of the best, if not I think the best, junior in the world," Djokovic said Wednesday. "He won the Orange Bowl when I played, I remember. He's a very, very talented player. He always had a very smart game, a variety of shots."
These days, of course, Djokovic finds himself the No. 1 professional player in the world. Was Baker better than Djokovic was back in the day?
"Well, he was older and he was better at that time, yes," Djokovic said, smiling. "I have actually seen him yesterday after a very long time. I was pleasantly surprised with his comeback. It's great to see him back."
Indeed it is or, rather, was. And although Baker's wildly improbable adventure through France has ended, charting the progress of this 27-year-old from Nashville over the rest of his career should be fun.
Playing his 10th match in 12 days, Baker lost to world No. 12 Gilles Simon -- a Frenchman playing in the biggest stadium at the French Open -- by a score of 6-4, 6-1, 6-7 (4), 1-6, 6-0. In retrospect, that's a tough ask of a guy who a year ago was playing for his father's and uncle's Middle Tennessee Tennis League.
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