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Baker Rides Comeback Wave In Nice

Nice, France

World No. 216 Brian Baker won his first tour-level match since 2005 on Tuesday, grinding out a 6-7(2), 6-4, 7-5 victory over 84th-ranked Sergiy Stakhovsky in his ATP World Tour clay-court debut at the Open de Nice Côte d’Azur.

Baker last celebrated tour-level success when he stunned ninth-ranked Gaston Gaudio at the US Open nearly seven years ago.

“I'm really excited. I haven't played too many tour-level events,” Baker told ATPWorldTour.com. “This was my second this year after losing in the Memphis qualies. Anytime I can win a tour-level match, it's a big thing. In the past, I only won four the last time around. I never proved myself at the tour-level before, so now it was very gratifying to keep the momentum going from Savannah.”

The 27-year-old American is playing his first tournament since capping off a memorable run to the Savannah Challenger title, which saw him clinch the USTA's wild card berth into Roland Garros. Baker took a week off to relish the win at home, and then trained for a week at the Saddlebrook Tennis Academy in Wesley Chapel, Florida to prepare for the ATP World Tour 250 event in Nice. His work paid off, as he came through the qualifying dropping just 13 games in three matches.

“I've said before that qualifying can be a good thing if you can get through without having to spend too much energy on the court,” said Baker.

“I was lucky enough to do that. It helped me get some match-like situations under my belt before I played. [Stakhovsky] is a great player and I knew I'd have to come out and play well to win. It was a really tight match, decided by a few points here and there, and I was fortunate to win the last point.”

Baker will face his biggest test since defeating Gaudio at Flushing Meadows, taking on 13th-ranked Frenchman Gael Monfils in the next round. Coincidentally, Baker defeated both Stakhovsky and Monfils in his final year of junior competition in 2003, but the former Roland Garros boys’ singles finalist was quick to brush aside those results.

“That was nine years ago. Maybe it's a good thing to know you beat the guy before, but I don't put much stock into that,” Baker said. “They are completely different players and so am I. I'm playing a guy who has been in the Top 10 before. He's a great player. He's from France and we're playing in France, so he's going to be the crowd favourite. I have a big test ahead of me.”

Monfils is appearing in Nice for the second time, having lost in the quarter-finals two years ago in the tournament’s debut. This is just the sixth time in Baker’s career that he will square off against a player ranked inside the Top 50 of the South African Airways ATP Rankings.

“I'm going to have to go out and play well, coming up with my best tennis. I need to get off to a good start,” believes Baker. “It's going to be a very tough match. You have to go into every match thinking you're going to win; otherwise you shouldn't go on the court. I'll go out there with a lot of confidence and will hopefully play a good match.”

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