With two back-to-back Futures singles titles, our featured player this month is the British player, Jamie Baker.
Jamie, 21, competed in two Futures tournaments during February, both were held on hard courts in Texas, USA. First up was a trip to Brownsville, TX for the USA F4 tournament where, seeded 2, he started with a 63 62 win against American wildcard entrant Ryan Harrison in the first round. Another American and another straight sets victory followed in the second round, this time Jamie recorded a 61 61 win over Shane La Porte. In the quarterfinal he came up against seeded opposition in the shape of Daniel Lustig from the Czech Republic. Full of confidence from his opening two matches, Jamie won through to the semi final with a 63 63 victory over the 7th seed. Next up was the Russian player Artem Sitak. As with his previous opponents, Artem failed to take a set off Jamie, eventually going down 63 62.
So, into the final, his first since finishing runner up in a British Futures tournament back in September 2007, to set up a clash of the top seeds with Kevin Anderson from South Africa. En route to the final, Kevin had dropped just the one set while Jamie was yet to lose a set. A close final was anticipated and did not fail to deliver with the opening set going Jamie’s way on a tiebreak. The second set also proved to be a close affair but Kevin was unable to become the only player in this tournament to win a set against Jamie and he took the title by winning the second set 64. This was Jamie’s first Futures singles title since March 2007, but he wouldn’t have to wait as long for his next title.
Staying in Texas, Jamie made the 26-mile journey to the USA F5 tournament in Harlingen where he was named the number 1 seed. Italian player Marco Crugnola pushed Jamie hard in the first round and managed to take the opening set on a tie break, the first set Jamie had lost in Futures competition in 2008. Jamie recovered from this set back to claim the second set 75 before rounding off victory 63 in the third. It wasn’t to get any easier for Jamie in the second round against Hyung-Kwon Kim from Korea, a lucky loser entrant into the main draw here. Once more, Jamie lost the opening set, this time 63 but as in the first round he fought back and took the next two sets and complete a 36 75 75 victory. Was Jamie perhaps suffering a post title-winning hangover? His quarterfinal opponent, the number 8 seed, Alberto Francis from nearby McAllen, TX was probably hoping so and was ready to capitalise if he was. Jamie managed to put an end to his run of opening set losses by edging the first set 63 before finally ending the challenge from Alberto with a 64 second set win. The theme for Jamie in this tournament seemed to be that of keeping the matches close and this continued in the semi final encounter with Uladzimir Ignatik. This 5’ 5” Belarusian, who counts Pete Sampras among his favourite players, earned his place in the main draw after winning through the qualifying event here and in previous rounds had seen off the 4th and 5th seeded players in straight sets. The first set went Jamie’s way 64 and the second was even closer and was decided on a tie break which went in Jamie’s favour to put him through to a second final of the month.
Jamie’s opponent in this final was Jurek Stasiak from Australia. Jurek, who came through the qualifying event, won through to the final without dropping a set, including matches played in the qualifying event. Despite his opponents record so far here, Jamie might have thought he was in for a comfortable time after easing his way through the first set 62, but in keeping with the closely thought matches of the previous rounds the next set proved a lot tougher to win for Jamie. This set went to a tiebreaker, which went Jamie’s way giving him his second Futures singles title of the month and his 7th Futures singles title of his career to date.
The ATP rankings released on March 3rd showed Jamie ranked at 249, just 38 places off his career best ranking to date. The two titles won during February (to the loss of just two sets) took Jamie’s career total to seven titles from twelve finals. All seven titles won, in fact all twelve finals contested, have been on a hard court surface.