IT is hard enough trying to beat the world’s best players on the sport’s biggest stages, but, when a bloke has to face a “freak show” who plays as if he has completely lost his marbles, it becomes nigh on impossible. So it was that Jamie Baker lost 7-6, 7-5, 6-2 to Lukas Rosol yesterday.
Rosol is the man who blew away Rafael Nadal in the second round of Wimbledon just six months ago so Baker is not alone in feeling flummoxed and bewildered by the big man’s game style. Twice the Scot served for a set and twice he had the opportunity taken away from him.
Quite how Rosol had managed it, Baker did not know. All he could be certain of was that he still had not won a match a grand slam tournament. “He’s like he’s a freak show, the way he plays,” Baker said. “He doesn’t put a ball in court the whole set but he continues doing the same thing. Any other sane person would change their tactics and try to get a ball in court but he doesn’t and then, sure enough, it happens at some point. Some of the tennis he played, if he was able to do that the whole time, he’s be top 20 in the world, no problem. And he isn’t.
“There aren’t any rules or patterns, other than he’s going to keep going as hard as he can. And obviously his serve is a massive, massive weapon. He just keeps everything going with that.”
While the loss still stings at the moment, Baker can leave Melbourne with his head held high. He fought his way through the qualifying competition, put himself in a position to pressure Rosol and earned himself his biggest pay cheque to date – around £18,000 – so there are plenty of positives to take from his trip Down Under.
“It’s very hard to think about congratulating myself on what happened this week because I genuinely don’t feel out of place at this level,” he said. “It wasn’t a big deal today, it was just a first-round match, it was just an opportunity and I feel like that’s actually my level.
“My next tournament’s going to be an ATP qualifying event in either Zagreb or Montpellier so at least that’s going straight back in at this type of level. I’m going to try to do as much of that as I possibly can. I think my tennis belongs at those kind of tournaments; I don’t feel out of place at all.”