American Juniors In Europe...
ENGLISH LAWNS TO WIMBLEDON
By Mark Winters     July, 2001

Brian Baker of Nashville, Tennessee, Prakash Amritraj and Nicole Pitts of Boca Raton, Florida showed real game by playing their way through the qualifying to earn main draw spots.

"When I was younger, I never thought about playing at this level," Liu said. "I figured if I got good enough I would play local tournaments and maybe get a chance to play the nationals. Playing on this level is an inspiration to work even harder and see if I can become a pro."

Liu, who is in her first year in the 18s and was playing her first Wimbledon, dropped her first round match to Annabel Blow of Great Britian 6-4,6-7,6-3. "I was really nervous in the beginning," Liu said. "I didn’t expect that so many people would be watching. When I was up 2-0 in the third, I started to rush and that cost me the match."

Playing a Grand Slam tournament can be daunting. "You have to feel that you belong and not be intimidated," offered USTA National coach Katrina Adams, who played The Championships 12 times during her pro career. "I have girls who are very young. This is their first experience here. They walk around and see the pros, and say ‘wow there’s Lindsay (Davenport), there’s Venus (Williams).’ I have been telling them that they are part of a special group. American girls have won here and then have gone on to have successful pro careers."

In the past 20 years the following Americans have been Wimbledon winners: Matt Anger (1981), Zina Garrison (1981), Chanda Rubin (1992) and Scott Humphries (1994).

Baker, who turned 16 in April and will represent the U.S. in the World Youth Cup final in Chile (in October), made his Wimbledon debut facing fellow qualifier Amritraj in the first round. "The Grand Slams are the best tournaments," he said. "They treat you the best and the competition is outstanding."

The Baker-Amritraj contest was an interesting match up. "Grass is his best surface, but I knew I had a good chance," Baker said. "I like to take the ball early, have flat strokes so the ball doesn’t set up and try to put people on the defensive."

(Photo is of Brian Baker)
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