By Randy Walker
Vasil Kirkov, the 17-year-old who reached the semifinals as a lucky loser in the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Championships USTA Futures event earlier this year in Vero Beach, Florida, competed in the qualifying rounds of the 2016 U.S. Open at the Billie Jean King USTA National Tennis Center.
Kirkov, however, suffered an early exit, falling 6-2, 7-5 in the first scheduled match of the competition to No. 242-ranked Yannik Reuter of Belgium.
Kirkov, ranked No. 1146, played the match on Court No. 5 – the shadow of the new Arthur Ashe Stadium retractable roof – in front of an audience of about 200 people that included U.S. Olympic men’s tennis coach Jay Berger, former US Davis Cup Captain Tom Gullikson and Hallof Famer – and Vero Beach resident – Ivan Lendl, who works with Kirkov as part of his advisory role with the USTA Player Development program.
Kirkov was awarded a wild card entry into the U.S. Open qualifying tournament by the U.S. Tennis Association after, not only his strong result in Vero Beach, that saw his ATP ranking rise almost 1000 spots, but by reaching the final of the USTA National Boy’s 18 Championships in Kalamazoo, Mich., where he lost to another Vero Beach Futures alumnus Michael Mmoh.
Kirkov is expected to compete in the U.S. Open junior championships in two weeks.
By James A. Crabtree
With the U.S. Open fast approaching now seems as good a time as any to look back on the greatest tie-breakers ever.
There is no better place to start than with the only slam to play a tie-break in the deciding fifth set. From one angle it’s a shame the Americans get to miss out on a possibly endless epic that might stretch on for days, like the 1080 points John Isner and Nicholas Mahut endured during the 2010 Wimbledon marathon.
On the other angle it’s great to watch a match where you can have match point, then only seconds later be match point down. Exciting, unpredictable and how very New York.
One such thrilling tiebreaker took place during the 1996 U.S. Open quarter final between Pete Sampras and Alex Corretja. Sampras won the match after firing a second serve ace down match point. He also showed more Hypochondriasis than Andy Murray before, like Murray, playing like an animal when it really mattered. Sampras went on to win the tournament beating Goran Ivanisevic in the semis and Michael Chang in the final.
The 1996 U.S. Open also initially caused controversy for the higher seeding of American players Michael Chang and Andre Agassi above their world ranking. Thomas Muster, Boris Becker and Yevgeny Kafelnikov were seeded below their ranking with Kafelnikov withdrawing himself in protest.
Arguably the greatest match ever, surely Nadal’s most memorable victory, the 2008 Wimbledon final had a bit of everything. Federer, the defending champion was starting to show signs he was human and Nadal was hungry for a slam that wasn’t played on clay. The longest final in Wimbledon history included a couple of tie-breaks, the second that included match points for Nadal. Incredibly Nadal didn’t capitalise in that set, but did manage to win 9-7 in the nail biting fifth set.
Another match Nadal won but came up short in the tie-break is the 2009 Australian Open semi, where he was blasted by a player simply on fire. Fernando Verdasco brought himself to the attention of the world with an attacking game that was all but faultless in a tie-break he won 7-1 to level the match. It was hard to think that Nadal could comeback from this kind of thrashing. What was harder still was the level of play Verdasco had to replicate to beat Nadal in the fifth. Against the odds Nadal was fresh enough to win the final, another five set match, against old foe Roger Federer.
Arguably the other greatest match ever and first major tiebreak to capture the attention of the world was during the 1980 Wimbledon final featuring John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg. More was on the line than just victory and defeat; this was baseline versus net, lefty versus right but most clearly fire and ice.
Borg had already squandered two championship points at 5–4 in the fourth. McEnroe saved five further match points during tiebreaker and won 18–16. Bjorn went on to win the fifth set 8-6 for his fifth and his final Wimbledon crown.
The final match to make the list is a Futures event this past January in Florida. Monaco’s world number 636 Benjamin Balleret beat unranked compatriot Guillaume Couillard 36-34 in the first set of their third round qualifying match. Balleret, a former world number 206, took the second set 6-1 and now holds the record for the longest tie-break in history.
by James A. Crabtree
Roger Federer’s switch to a new racquet has made more news stories worldwide than a lunar landing. And so it should. When the world’s most successful assassin changes his most trusted weapon, this is big news.
Federer has made minor adjustments over the years, from the Pro Staff 85 6.0 he used in 2001 to defeat Sampras (the same racquet Sampras used). He then went to the Hyper Pro Staff which looked like a paint job of the previous.
If you painted your old Porsche and told everyone it was a new model would they believe you? Well, lets just assume your friends are gullible. And you would argue it is still a Porsche and should be driven with care. Both the Porsche and the Pro Staff are tough to handle.
By 2003 Federer was using a racquet with a 90 sq. inch frame and winning slams. This was the most dramatic adjustment and to many an observer the racquet has barely changed since. Just subtle paint jobs and a twinge on the marketing with a new name to keep mugs like myself trying to emulate our Swiss hero. The nCode range followed, then the nSix-One Tour 90, K Factor Six One Tour, Six.One Tour BLX and up until Wimbledon 2013 the BLX Pro Staff Six.One.
This is a tough racquet to play with. It may also be the least friendly racquet for your regular club player, as it doesn’t allow for errors. It’s a pure players racquet for Samurai’s who have mastered the craft.
So is it the same old Pro Staff that has been around for Eon’s. Well it is and it isn’t. The racquet has been moulded and adjusted to fit the player, rather than the other way around. Federer has made detailed and minute changes to his racquet and although it may look like the one in the shops it would feel and play totally different. The model, which has the same shape and hard edges would vary in weight, balance, swing weight, composite material, grip and strings whether you chose the version played by Sampras, Edberg, Courier or Federer. Regardless, it can still account for 41 slams.
Irrespective of the intricacies the Pro Staff, a racquet initially designed for Jimmy Connors, is now gone. The replacement looks like the Blade that Monfils has been using, but is now suspected to be a prototype. Whatever racquet it is, the switch has laid to rest the most successful racquet in grand slam men’s tennis history.
Usually when players change racquets it is for money, such as Djokovic to Head or more recently Wawrinka and Tomic to Yonex. When players switch model within the same company more often than not it is a paint job. Federer’s latest racquet is definitely more than just a façade.
Federer lost one surprise match at Wimbledon and it’s not unreasonable to think he has overreacted. He has had a horrid year thus far, with only one tournament win and no victories over a top 10 player. On top of this his confidence has taken a hit. He has dropped in the rankings, and showed inconsistency with his various game plans. Is a new racquet just a desperate shot in the dark to find form, or another experiment that could plummet his woes further?
Is Federer learning from Pete Sampras, who never changed his racquet throughout his career but suggested perhaps he should have. Or is coach Paul Annacone in his ear, having been there at the end of both the careers of Sampras and Henman.
Federer has stated he is happy with the new racquet, and the greater sq. inches it provides should add a little more power and help with the various shanks we have become accustomed to seeing. The new racquet hasn’t yet experienced a loss or been put up against a considerable opponent. His arm may have been tested, but not his ability to deal with the underlying psychological aspects it will undoubtedly present.
by James A. Crabtree
Normality has been restored, with the exploits of Janowicz, Darcis, Del Potro, Stakhovsky, Brown, Kubot and Verdasco disappearing into the vault named Wimbledon folklore.
After all the hiccups throughout the draw the number one and two ranked players meet in the final. Wimbledon 2013, like 33 of the last 34 Slams will be won by one of the Big Four.
Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, currently the best hard-court players tour, know each other’s games well. Too well, having played18 times, with Djokovic leading 11–7. This tally includes three Grand Slam finals. The 2011 and 2013 Australian Opens, won by Djokovic and the 2012 US Open, won by Murray.
For Murray to win this one he will have to find influence from a multitude of sources. He is coming off a tough fight back victory against Verdasco, and a solid win against Janowicz. There is no reason to believe he has peaked. Also, he has beaten his rival on the big stage but also on the same court, one year ago during the Olympic semi-final. He knows he can’t rely on just rallying out his opponent. He needs surprise attacks, rather than just the passive get backs. Somehow he needs to persuade the Serb to over hit his backhand and question the serve that can get tight under pressure. He needs to keep Novak guessing, find a way into his brain while keeping his own mind unruffled. Conversely, the Serb will be looking to play the very same mind games, and very similar tactics to the Scot.
Wimbledon 2013 will serve to either even the score for Murray or push Djokovic past the tallies of Becker and Edberg with six total slams and onto seven to equal Wilander and McEnroe.
Novak has reached this level by shaking the old label as someone who would quit and crumble. These days he doesn’t merely tolerate tough battles, in truth they galvanize him, not that he has had many this Wimbledon. When he is pushed to the brink he screams, dives, slides, rips and fights to the bitter end better than no man. A tennis machine, possibly inspired by Nikola Tesla, is always dangerous even when he is playing badly; he is always in the game. Novak carries the air of invincibility. He doesn’t miss an easy shot. His serve is rarely broken. He doesn’t make unforced errors. He chases down balls that most players wouldn’t have even attempted. The only real worry is the fact he has only been pushed once all tournament, in that absurdly good semi-final against Del Potro. But is it foolhardy to question someone who has been good?
If Novak claims his second Wimbledon crown he will further cement his name as a legend, all round good guy, great player on all surfaces and poster boy for the new Serbia. If Murray wins his first Wimbledon crown, and the countries first in seventy-seven years, the Scot will enter the realms if immortality. Murray hysteria will abound. Aside from all his extra million dollar deals will be surely be a Knighthood, statue at the All England Club, a new Column in Trafalgar square opposite Nelson and likely divinization.
by James A. Crabtree
Arguably the most hated Australian tennis player since a young Lleyton Hewitt, life isn’t easy for Bernard Tomic.
In fact Bernie has almost gone in search of bad press. There was the turning down of Lleyton Hewitt as a practice partner. The allegations he was going to quit Australia at his father’s behest and play for Croatia. In the 2012 Miami Masters he asked the chair umpire to remove his own father. During last years US Open John McEnroe accused Tomic of tanking a loss to Andy Roddick. Following all that he angered the old guard of Australian tennis with apparent refusal to play Davis Cup. And then we have the numerous driving issues, too numerous to mention.
Nevertheless Tomic is also the man with the best chance of restoring Australian tennis fortunes.
It must be tough for him. Most people find young men in their late teens and early twenties irritating to the say the least. Unless you are a fifteen year old girl chances are you also find Justin Bieber and One Direction intolerable.
Another difficulty for Tomic is the daddy dilemma as Bernard is not the person with the biggest ego among his entourage.
What on earth is young Bernie supposed to you?
The youngest Wimbledon quarterfinalist since Boris Becker in 1985 Tomic started 2013 well. He won all three of his singles Hopman Cup matches against none other than Tommy Haas, Novak Djokovic and Andreas Seppi. He then went onto win Sydney. There he beat Marinko Matosevic, Florian Mayer, Jarkko Nieminen, Andreas Seppi (again), and Kevin Anderson for his tenth win in a row and his first career singles title.
Quickly Tomic went from being loathed to loved.
The following week at the Australian Open, Leonardo Mayer and Daniel Brands fell victim. By this time the whole of Australia was in a flutter and Tomic was not only invincible, but was displaying the sort of ego not seen since Clubber Lang.
Then there was the rumoured incident before the big Australian Open 3rd round match. On the practice court where John Tomic is notoriously hot headed Bernie sat after practice, his dad stood behind and berated him incessantly for ten minutes. Eventually Bernie walked off shaking his head. Not the best possible way to get a sense of Zen before a match?
Bernie went on to lose the match, and hasn’t won more than two matches in a row since. Of course his drop in form went unnoticed until dad John reportedly beat up Bernie’s hitting partner Thomas Drouet. Complications have heightened further since Drouet has come forward with other incidences.
What is Bernie supposed to do?
Judy Murray once commented that talent got her son, Andy Murray, within the top 100, but it was hard work and determination that propelled him to the heights he now knows. Compare the 2013 Andy Murray with the 2005 version of himself and we could be looking at a different athlete.
It is obvious that Bernard could administer similar changes.
This poses the question, who would be the perfect person to guide arguably the most naturally talented youngster on tour? Tennis Australia are already trying to help solve the crisis, and undoubtedly all the familiar names will arise such as Tony Roche, Pat Rafter and Scott Draper. Again akin to the LTA Brad Gilbert hiring for Andy Murray perhaps the best coach for the player is not one made by a committee. And besides, Bernie has had more than his fair share of runs with a number of high profile Australian coaches during Davis Cup play already. Perhaps he needs someone with an old school work hard mentality similar to Ivan Lendl or someone who can understand the games intricate details such as Andy Roddick’s old coach Larry Stefanki.
Sacking the only coach you have ever known would be difficult enough, now imagine starting that ordeal with the word ‘Dad’. Bernard obviously needs a new coach, but probably deep down worries about what his father will do without him.
by James A. Crabtree
I was talking with a fellow tennis fanatic the other day and the conversation shifted to the best live match we had ever seen. The fellow fanatic in question has rather deep pockets and could recount epics played throughout the world and the great corporate seats they had and blah blah blah. Well, enough about them, they were rather annoying.
I am not going to get snobby and say “You had to physically be there.” That is absurd and unfair to those of us with mortal salaries.
And by no means does this epic matchup have to be a final.
You simply have had to watch the match live, been engrossed in it, unable to draw yourself away from the drama that unfolded in front of your eyes..
Andy Roddick versus Roger Federer, 2009 Wimbledon Final
Tough call here because the Federer versus Nadal epics in 2007 and 2008 were pretty special. But the choice goes to this five setter simply because, like many, I started the match cheering for Roger and finished going for Andy. Fed, at the time, was going for his fifteenth slam which would make him the most successful player in history, and Andy has had to bear witness to every slam in Fed’s career. But on this day Andy Roddick really looked like he could it. He was a set up, then 6-2 in the second set tie break, but Federer levelled it. Roddick lost the third but rebounded in the fourth. The thirty game fifth set, well that’s just part of Wimbledon lore. Do I really need to mention that Federer won it?
Stephen Edberg versus Michael Chang, 1989 Roland Garros Final
This was an absolute heartbreaker, especially if you were a diehard Edberg fan. Anyway, the gentleman Swede was attempting to become one of only a handful of true volleyers to pick up the title. In the fifth set he was a break up and looked like he would serve and volley his way into destiny, on clay. Unfortunately for Edberg fans he was up against a seventeen year upstart who had famously underarmed served in the fourth round against Lendl, the world number one. Michael Chang, with destiny on his side, took the title and secured his place as the youngest ever grand slam winner.
Rafael Nadal versus Novak Djokovic, 2012 Australian Open final
This epic final knocks out of the list the 2009 Verdasco/Nadal semi-final. Although still a very recent memory the relentless fight these two players showed proved why they will be remembered as legends in a match that lasted twice as long as Lord of The Rings. Let’s remember both players were coming off emotional wins, Rafa over Roger and Novak over Andy. The final included some of the most gruelling baseline hitting in recent memory, Nadal falling to his knees in jubilation after winning the fourth set and Djokovic’s infamous Hulk inspired shirt rip after his victory. Most of Melbourne awoke after this match with a very painful tennis hangover.
Boris Becker versus Johan Kriek, 1985 Queen’s Club Championships
Little can be said for the quality of the tennis as I simply don’t remember because I was only five years old at the time, but this was my first ever tennis match. I do remember it being very hot, and standing with my parents in line for the bar behind the biggest and most ginger human in the world.
This list did take a lot of deep thought, with so many games to recollect. The 2012 Aussie Open Marco Baghdatis versus Stan Wawrinka racquet smash bonanza was one of the most intriguing matches I’ve ever seen and now rewritten as a Greek tragedy. Brad Gilbert versus David Wheaton at Wimbledon 1990 was a strategical masterpeice. It is easy to recall the Sampras and Agassi bouts, Henman near misses, Davis Cup upsets including Lleyton’s 2003 two set down comeback against Federer. But the battles royale that take precedence within the memory banks cannot be dislodged.
by James A. Crabtree
Whenever Federer, strangely, doesn’t make a grand slam semi-final there is a collective sigh of regret from the majority of the world’s tennis faithful. On the flip side, of the players still standing, there is a genuine sigh of relief.
Suddenly there is a chance, a real chance, a fresh face could hold aloft a grand slam trophy. Apart from Juan Martin del Potro’s 2009 U.S. Open all the slams since Roland Garros 2005 have been dominated by either Roger, Rafa or Novak.
Andy Murray, Tomas Berdych and David Ferrer all believe that this could be their chance at tennis immortality. They are smiling on the inside.
The only guy to possibly spoil an all-out ‘Thank God They Are Not Here’ party is, of course, Novak Djokovic who is the only member of the big three present. Also noteworthy is the fact that the Serbian world number two has been looking scarily good, just ask big Jaun Martin del Potro.
David Ferrer versus Novak Djokovic
Is this a forgone conclusion?
I really hate to say this, and I don’t want to believe it but yes, it looks to be all Novak. In almost all aspects he is a better version of his opponent.
What David Ferrer/young Emilio Estevez fans have to hope for is Djokovic to have one of those apathetic meltdowns that we used to see from him pre 2011. We need Ferrer to out grind to the backhand, keep the ball deep , return exceptionally and break late in sets. Trouble is it just doesn’t look likely. Tennis is all about current form and confidence. The Djoker is riding high on both after blitzing through the draw including that sensational win over Juan Martin del Potro.
Okay, so Ferrer’s record against the Serb isn’t bad, he has won five of their thirteen meetings. Noting that three of those were in round robin play, but none in grand slams.
Although it would be a real treat to see the other Spaniard gunslinger in a grand slam final, a true gambler wouldn’t bet against Novak now, especially in Gotham City.
Andy Murray versus Tomas Berdych
This should be a really testy encounter. A Highlander taking on the pride of Skynet, the T1000. These are two really volatile baseliners who can either bring brilliance or boredom.
Andy Murray is perhaps the best second-serve returner on tour. Now, Berdych does have the ability to serve big when he is on his game but when he gets nervous this is the first part of his game to falter, much in part due to that absurdly high ball toss.
We should expect to see Berdych start strong with that power game of his; riding high on his Federer victory but the Murray monotony will undoubtedly wear him down. Unless Berdych can hit flat out winners Murray should have him beaten from the back of the court using his superior fitness and consistency whilst lulling him into errors and a state of mental anguish, that cyborgs generally aren’t programmed to deal with.
Before you know it, it’s game, set and match to the golden boy. FREEEEEEEDOMMMMM!
The only question now is whether destiny is on the side of the Scot, the 2008 finalist? Without both Federer and Nadal to contend with, and ultimately some revenge on Djokovic, it would be hard to imagine Murray losing five grand slam finals in a row.
But that is a whole other conversation. Bring on the FINAL!
by James A. Crabtree
Seriously what is his secret? Still, at this mature vintage Roger Federer still makes a victim of mostly everyone. It beggars belief.
But how has this happened? Every year we hear the commentator’s prophesise how the game has changed, how the players hit harder with more spin and are better athlete’s etcetera etcetera etcetera.
Years ago I remember a commentator at Wimbledon during an Agassi match state that the single backhand is all but dead. That heavy topspin employed with extreme Sergi Brugera type grips is the only way the modern game can be played. ‘Change with the times or be left behind’ he said.
But, Federer’s game is arguably the most classic on tour. A time warp dominating the new generation. Aside from the dodgy shorts he would be required to wear in previous generations Federer would not look out of place in the sixties, seventies or eighties.
So what is the secret to his classic game? Has time been frozen?
It is easy to imagine. Federer is sponsored by Rolex, who make very, very nice watches. Now, what if the Rolex watch was actually able to do more than just tell you the time. What if those who made the watches were able to freeze time? Imagine if every time Federer looked to be missing a beat the watch maker, a little man with a German accent, tartan waistcoat and monocle on his eye, simply wound the watch up to speed.
(Insert German accent here) “Now vee are up to Speed. Wunderbar.”
Before you know it Federer is playing like it is 2004. But hang on, its 2012. Federer is still number one.
It must be far more complicated than that…
No, not as complicated as quantum leaping because Doctor Sam Beckett couldn’t play tennis. And nothing to do with Marty McFly either. Considering the amount Federer has travelled it could be something to do with the fountain of youth but Federer, although youthful for the amount of time he has spent in the sun, has aged a little.
Apart from a few minor back niggles Federer has remained more injury free than any sports man in recent memory…
Is Roger Federer cryogenically refrigerated at night? His muscles and mind maintained or enhanced by the process of freezing at extremely low temperatures. It is not too hard to picture good ol’ Mirka in a lab coat and surgeons mask, turning down the temperature then closing the door nightly on Roger.
“Night night Roger, love you,” she would say.
“Night night Mirks, love you too.” He would respond. Before you know it a whiff of dry ice would fill the room and Federer would be sleeping soundly in one of the pods from the Alien movie.
In the morning he would wake, bright and as spritely as ten years ago.
By James A. Crabtree
So yes, it is still in the very early stages.
But am I just imagining this or has there been an absurd amount of five set matches, thirteen at last count. Absolute proof the game is decided not only by the power of a serve but as much by a will of nerve.
Milos Raonic was made to work and work against Santiago Giraldo, but his big serve came in handy. Janko Tipsarevic scraped through as did fellow seed Marin Cilic who next faces Daniel Brands another five set survivor.
Surely these guys, after such a gruelling day at work deserve an immunity pin or something.
But reality TV this is not. You lose and you go home. No chance of a recall here just because you are a fan favourite.
Speaking of recalls how long has Radek Stepanek been around? Surely he remembers the better movie Total Recall with Arnold Schwarzenegger over the latest disappointment with Colin Farrel. Anyway poor old Radek lost a tough four setter, dressed in a shirt paying homage to the statue of liberty, finding no such liberty from 11th seed Nicolas Almagro. Gilles Simon was more successful in his tough four setter against another old guy, thirty four year old Michael Russell.
Remember back in the eighties when they said to be a great tennis player you had to be dominating the tour before you needed to shave or were legally allowed to drive. How and why has it changed so much? Are we going to see players play to a Ken Rosewall and Pancho Gonzalez vintage? Will we ever see the likes of a teenage Boris Becker or Michael Chang again? Or is it simply because the older guys employ an improved diet and fitness regime whilst the younger guys play on their iPads and update their FaceBook status. It’s complicated.
Interestingly the only teenie within the top 100 currently is Bernard Tomic. Now correct me if I am wrong but Bernard is most certainly an old school name and the young Australian does play quite a flat forehand and uses the almost antiquated slice backhand to a devastating effect. Maybe that is the secret, be young but play old. This is getting confusing. Anyway he is playing the old Andy Roddick next.
Now, speaking of confusing Andy Murray did escape losing a set in his match to Alex Bogomolov Jr and Ivan Dodig. However, as has become quite normal for the Scot we had to witness his usual facial pains of distress and sudden hamstring grasps. If it were not for the score line you could have sworn he was down and out, not safely into the next round. Typical whinging Brit 😉
And a bit more whining. I am so disappointed in Grigor Dimitrov. If your style emulates Roger Federer we want the same results as Roger Federer. Is that really too much to ask ? Oh yes, Marcos Baghadatis is playing Alexandr Dolgopolov in his next- that should be a good one. Remember when Baghadatis made the 2006 Australian Open final. Feels like more than half a decade ago. Actually it was.
Ok, enough of all that. Bring on the next round.
By Kelyn Soong
Brian Baker’s biggest win on the ATP World Tour occurred in the first round of the 2005 U.S. Open, where he upset ninth-seeded Gaston Gaudio.
It would be more than six years and five major surgeries later before Baker would earn another ATP main draw victory.
After breezing through the qualifying rounds, the 27-year-old Baker defeated world No. 84 Sergiy Stakhovsky in the first round of the Nice Open in France and will meet fourth seeded Gael Monfils next.
The win continues the comeback story of the former junior phenom, who earned a USTA wild card into the 2012 French Open by winning the Savannah Challenger in Georgia last month. For Baker, it will be a return to the scene he once commanded.
Back in 2003, Baker reached the Boys’ Singles final at Roland Garros – losing to former top 10 player Stanislas Wawrinka. En route he defeated 2006 Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis in the quarterfinals and current world No. 5 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the semifinals. The tennis world had its eyes on the tall, powerful American.
But injuries and surgeries – left hip, sports hernia, right hip, left hip again and a Tommy John elbow procedure – would rear its ugly head.
By the time Baker was 23, the Nashville, Tenn. native returned home and enrolled at nearby Belmont University, where he worked as an assistant tennis coach. He was majoring in business with a finance concentration and still has one more year to complete.
The degree may have to wait a little longer than planned.
Now world No. 216 and not far off from his career best of No. 172 from November 2004, Baker has jumped more than 200 spots since the beginning of the year.
In a career full of twists and turns, Baker now has the chance to make the biggest splash of them all – mounting a comeback that no one expected.
(Photo of Brian Baker by Kathy Willens, AP)