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Another blow for American tennis

 
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MELBOURNE, Australia

With John Isner back home nursing an injured knee, the last thing American tennis needed was another injury. Yet three days into the Australian Open, that is exactly what has happened, as fate has decreed that the Brian Baker is the next to fall — literally.

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Playing against Sam Querrey on Court 6 at Melbourne Park on Wednesday, Baker went down during the second set, clutching a knee that locked. The injury, yet to be diagnosed, forced the oft-injured Baker to retire with a 7-6, 1-1 lead, leaving Querrey devastated at what had happened to his compatriot.

“He’s the last person that deserves anything like that with his five or six surgeries already,” said Querrey, referring to the fact that Baker was out of the game for five years with a series of injuries before making a highly successful comeback early last year. “He does everything right; treats his body great, just trying to come back and then something like that happens. It’s just so unlucky.”

Querrey said that Baker told him he felt his knee “almost buckle and kind of hear like a pop or a snap. He could straighten it, he couldn’t walk.”

And thus the sympathetic crowd of about 1,000 saw a high quality duel terminated by the unhappy sight of Baker taken away in a wheel chair.

Although it hardly matters now, Baker had been striking the ball even better than Querrey and had dominated the tie break which he won 7-2. The man from Nashville, Tenn., got down low to play a beautiful forehand volley to reach set point. Did he tweak something on that shot? Who knows. But it was not long after that he suddenly collapsed after completing a point.

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With Americans so thin on the ground, this is bad news for Jim Courier’s Davis Cup team that is due to play Brazil at Jacksonville, Fla., early next month. With Isner doubtful, Baker, 57th in the ATP rankings, would have been challenging Ryan Harrison for a singles spot behind Querrey.

After the match, Querrey talked more about what Baker’s return to the Tour had meant to American tennis: “It’s been great. The more Americans in the top 100 the better. Brian rose up really quickly and has kind of established himself as, you know, in my mind he’s a top-50 player and he can beat guys who are top 20, top 10. It’s great to have him there. He deserves to be there. He’s been so unfortunate in the last six, seven years. If he can heal quickly or even if it takes a year, I think he can get back right where he is now. He’s talented. He’s good enough.”

Meanwhile, Madison Keys lent further credence to the feeling that the 17-year-old American is ready for the pro tour by sweeping into the third round with an impressive 6-2, 6-1 victory over the 30th seed from Austria, Tamira Paszek, in just 56 minutes. Keys, who beat Casey Dellacqua 6-4, 7-6 in the first round, has yet to drop a set.

Tomas Berdych, the No 5 seed who is in Novak Djokovic’s quarter of the draw, was locked in as he powered his way past Frenchman Guillaume Rufin 6-2, 6-2, 6-4.

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