JAMIE Baker has announced his retirement from tennis after growing tired of life on tour and deciding he was unlikely to make further progress.
The Glaswegian, who turns 27 in August, believes the skills and self-reliance he has learned in sport can be useful in another field, but has yet to decide on an alternative career.
Baker got to his highest ATP Tour ranking of 185 last summer, but went into Wimbledon as the world No.333. His current British ranking is No.7.
“After many months of thought, I’ve decided to end my playing career,” he announced yesterday at a Wimbledon press conference. “I think over the last six to 12 months the day-to-day enjoyment of the tennis lifestyle has really weakened, but also at the same time my interest in pursuing the skills I’ve developed within tennis in another career has really strengthened.
“Tennis has given me an amazing education and life. Because I have developed so many skills, that’s probably one of the main reasons I feel this is the right time to go on to something new.
“I’ve got so many people I have to thank and I think it’s right for me to do that in my own way and my own time, but the main sponsor of my whole career – and it wouldn’t have been possible otherwise – has been the LTA. There was one major occasion, in 2008, where they stepped in and had a big part in saving my career and almost my life.
“I’ve always known it’s pretty straightforward to start a career that is a passion and I’ve equally always known that the difficult thing is knowing when to move on. For me, ending on a high note – having qualified in Australia and at Queen’s – I feel I’ve now reached a place where I’m satisfied that I’ve done that.”
The major occasion in question was when Baker contracted a life-threatening auto-immune condition and had to spend three days in intensive care. He recovered from that setback, however, and went on to enjoy some of the best results of his career in the past few years. Even so, he has concluded that he was only likely to emulate past achievements, not improve on them.
“Where I am just now, I play the next three months trying to qualify for the Aussie Open again, and I’ve qualified there the last two times,” he explained. “To better that is going to be very difficult.
“I’m not going to lie – I feel like I am making the right decision, but I’ve got a huge amount of sadness about the things that I’m not going to experience any more. But those highs are so high that, whether you’re 26 or 35, you’d always probably want more of them.
“I decided before the grass court season started. All the things I don’t enjoy about the tennis life now are not relevant during the grass court season – there’s no travelling, I’m at home, everybody is around that I have strong relationships with, grass is my favourite surface, these are the biggest tournaments in the world.”
Besides qualifying for the Australian Open twice, the highlight of Baker’s career, he said, was playing against Andy Roddick at Wimbledon. “Against a former world No.1, and the way I played, I think that’s something I’ll remember for ever.”
Although he did not rule out working in tennis in future, in the short term Baker appears more likely to join his brother in the financial sector. “I sit and watch my brother trade for Morgan Stanley and make a lot more money than me and I’m sick of doing that. So probably the financial industry down here as a big appeal to me.”
Andy Murray paid tribute to Baker and highlighted his fellow Scot’s work ethic. “He enjoyed the physical preparations to get himself ready,” he said. “I obviously did a couple of training blocks with him and he worked hard.
“It is a shame that he is stopping, but I am sure he will do well in whatever he decides to do.”