Paris’ll always have Brian Baker, and so will we.
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Brian won that explosive tiebreak, 7-4, and then he trounced Gilles in the fourth, 6-1. It really looked like the run begun with his first-round win would continue. He of all people, who had been sidelined in doctors’ offices and hospitals while his contemporaries were making careers on the courts, would see that our colors would be carried at least another day. Because the truth is, friends, it looks pretty bleak out there, and it looked pretty bleak even before the rain started coming down seriously, too late to save Venus but early enough to stop some great matches not involving any Americans.
This is why Venus and Agnieszka ought to get together. Venus and Serena believe in giving back, as they have got, and they have sponsored and championed a tennis and learning center in Southeast Washington, D.C., even though they are from Michigan and California and Florida. The idea is to develop talent and give kids who come from poor and broken down neighborhoods a chance. This center is not working as well as it ought — too much infighting among the grownups — and the Williamses surely know this and they know they ought to do something about it, but there is only so much anyone can do. It is still better than not having a center, and it will improve. It may get worse first, but eventually it will improve.
Now Agnieszka wants to do something along these lines in Cracow. She begins from a more basic place — she has to first persuade the city fathers that building and maintaining public facilities for sports, and tennis in particular, is not off the wall. They should get together and discuss these kinds of projects. They will become friends, perhaps start a Washington, D.C.-Cracow Tennis Exchange and Scholarship Program. This would lessen the risk of our kids not knowing the histories of our respective countries and saying howlers about them. History should be high on school programs, in Poland and in America. Tennis and other sports, too.
Brian crushed Gilles in the fourth set, but immediately unraveled in the fifth. It is one of those things that cannot be explained with mathematical precision. His forehand had been his weak spot all evening — less reliable than anything else. Simon finally got the hang of how to exploit this, and the forehand errors piled up. It could have been something else, though. It could have been several things, including Simon putting on a dominant game in that final set, after three hours, despite falling again and again for those drop shots. They were not enough, as Brian well knows. No single shot ever is. But one thing is sure — they will remember Brian Baker in Paris and if American players follow his lead, refuse to quit even under the pain and strain of adversity, they will start winning again. It sounds corny, but it is true. Thanks, Brian.
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