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By Chris Oddo          Photo Credit: Mark Corleve

(May 23, 2012)—27-year-old Brian Baker is playing like he’s the best American clay-courter in Europe right now.

He might be.

Baker, ranked No. 216 coming prior to qualifying for his first ATP-level event in nearly seen years, has now won his first two clay-court matches of his career and reached his first ATP quarterfinal too.

All of this comes on the heels of Baker earning the USTA’s French Open wildcard earlier this spring.

The Nashville, Tennessee native who underwent five surgeries and fell off the map after being considered a promising junior in the early 2000’s is suddenly on fire. Yesterday he defeated veteran Sergiy Stakhovsky in three sets and today for an encore he outdueled Gael Monfils—ranked more than 200 spots higher than him—in straight sets.

After winning 75 percent of his first serve points and saving three set points in the second set, Baker advanced 6-3, 7-6(9) and will play Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan in the quarterfinals tomorrow.

John Isner also advanced when he took two tiebreakers from Xavier Malisse in a match that saw neither player give an inch on serve.

Isner launched 13 aces and will look to build on the win when he faces former world No. 3 Nikolay Davydenko in tomorrow’s quarterfinals.

In other action, No. 2 seed Gilles Simon got past Grigor Dimitrov 6-3, 6-3. The Frenchman will next face dangerous Brazilian qualifier Thomaz Bellucci, who was victorious in straight sets over Juan Carlos Ferrero 6-4, 6-3.

Third-seeded Nicolas Almagro also advanced over Edouard Roger-Vasselin, 7-6(5), 6-4. The Spaniard will face Belgian Steve Darcis, who defeated Filippo Volandri of Italy in three sets, in the quarterfinals.


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