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Baker ignores trip to Australia Open in his ‘make or break’ year

Jamie Baker made one of the toughest decisions of his life prior to starting his assault on a ‘make or break’ season in his career by contesting this week’s Futures tournament in his native Glasgow.

His career seemed set for take off two years ago when he made his way through the qualifying of a grand slam event for the first time to make it to the Australian Open.

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An impressive first-round display against Ivo Karlovic, then ranked in the world’s top 30, took the Scot to career-high ranking of 211 and posted his intent to become the second Scot to make the top 100 behind Andy Murray.

A life-threatening blood disorder and a succession of injuries led to the 23-year-old’s ranking dropping outside the 1000 mark and only the most determined of fight backs has taken the obdurate Scot back to his current position of 311.

Baker had one of his best singles wins, over Robbie Kendrick of the USA in a challenger event across the Atlantic, and it gave him a major decision to make when planning his assault on what he freely admits is the ‘make or break’ year of his career.

Should he make the trek to Melbourne and try to qualify for the slam down under for a second time, or consolidate his form at modest Futures tournament level in Scotstoun and Sheffield before cranking up his attempt to earn a place in the Great Britain team for the Davis Cup Europe-Africa Zone Group 2 tie against Lithuania, in March.

Baker chose the latter and, following Andy Murray’s decision not to play the Davis Cup tie, Baker is full of belief that he can regain a Davis Cup team place. “I am playing well and my confidence is high but this is when I have got to make things happen,” he said. “It would have been nice to try to qualify for the Australian Open again and prove I am back to where I was before the illness came around but I can’t afford to take that chance.

“If I went there and lost in the first round of qualifying, it would be a disaster financially and it would be a damaging as far as gaining more competitive match time. So my plan is to play the $15,000 tournament at Scotstoun and another Futures at Sheffield before going to the States for a couple of challenger tournaments, before trying to qualify for two ATP World Tour events.

“Andy making himself unavailable for the Davis Cup against Lithuania so early lets everyone know what they have to do. The captain, John Lloyd, knows that I have been in that intense arena before, over in Argentina; it didn’t faze me then and it won’t again.”

While his game is of the grinding back-court variety, Baker says that he has been working hard in the close season on developing weapons that will allow him to ‘damage’ opponents, rather than merely wear them down. He said: “It is about developing my game to go beyond that [his highest ranking so far] and try to make it into the top 100, where I could make a decent living.”

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