Glasgow’s Jamie Baker has capped an amazing comeback month winning the second of two Men’s Futures events held in Darwin this week at the Gardens Tennis Centre at the top end of Australia.
Stifling heat throughout the fortnight ensured only the fittest survived and despite the tough conditions, the local support was welcomed as the ITF Pro Circuit continued for a second week in Darwin.
The Northern Territory Men’s International 2 final saw the British player defeating Brisbane’s John Millman 64 26 63 in an amazingly intense 2hr battle in oppressive conditions with the temperature gauge reaching 36-degrees. In post match speeches, Millman lamented that he thought he would have had the inside running due to the conditions. “I didn’t know they had hot weather in Scotland” he quipped. Baker has had an incredible run this month slowly working his way back from a long layoff due to a blood infection.
Jamie has featured in three back-to-back ITF Pro Circuit finals, winning in Nonthaburi, Thailand and this week in Darwin. Sandwiched between those was a finals appearance last week at the first Darwin Men’s International. Millman told an enthralled crowd that Baker had been the “man of the fortnight”. In early rounds Baker out-thought Lucky Loser James O’Brien (AUS) 63 62 in the first round, and then comfortably accounted for Matheson Klein (AUS) 63 60 in the next round.
In the quarters, Baker made short work of second seed Jose Statham 62 62, out duelling his counterpart from the baseline. In a tense semi final, Baker ground out a 76(2) 76(7) victory over 6th seed Robert Smeets of Queensland. Meanwhile, top seed Millman had tasted success against Mikal Statham (NZL) 60 32 RET, Zhe Li (CHN) 62 64, Yuichi Ito (JPN) 64 61 and Kaden Hensel (AUS) 36 75 63.
The final was destined to be a classic with two inform and tenacious baseliners pitted against one another. Baker seemed to have the measure of his opponent early on, always managing to find the answers to repel the polished Millman groundtstrokes. Up a set and an early break, the story appeared to have been written but Millman proved his mettle by turning the deficit around with a 5 game surge that saw him level the match at one set all. Just when the tide was running against him, Baker grabbed an early break in the third and try as Millman might, Baker held strong to secure his second win in three weeks and his first on Australian soil. In his victory speech, Baker spoke of his love for the game and how his period away from the sport had reinvigorated his desires to compete at the highest level. “It’s great to have my (tennis) life back again,” he told the appreciative crowd. An enthusiastic Darwin crowd marvelled at the quality of the baseline rallies throughout the match, and also the high level of sportsmanship, which has become synonymous with both players.
In the doubles event, Adam Hubble and Kaden Hensel won their 9th career ITF Pro Circuit doubles title together with a 64 63 win over Chinese Davis Cup duo of Zhe Li and Yu Jr. Wang.
Good news for Darwin is that The Northern Territory Government has committed to hosting the event for three years, and also to the construction of a new $8million stadium, which will hopefully be ready for the 2010 Pro Circuit tournaments.
This series of Australian ITF Pro Circuit tournaments now heads south from the scorching heat of the Northern Territory to the milder temperatures around Adelaide this week. Such is the diversity of the country that during the week there has been a 24-degree difference between the two major cities. The players will no doubt be looking forward to the milder conditions.