American Brian Baker won his first round qualifying match on Saturday. (Alex Smith / Memphis Open)


The world of professional tennis is fast-paced and tense. Concentration is centered on what happens on-court and hitting that yellow fuzzy ball. But today proved that tennis players one and all have a heart and are touched by those who may have experienced less fortunate situations.

At the Memphis Open presented by ServiceMaster there was a wonderful meeting between German player Benjamin Becker and a 16-year-old boy who was given extra special treatment. Becker won his first round qualifying match defeating Nikola Mektic of Croatia 6-3, 6-3 and was introduced to young Andre, also of German background, who has been a patient at the amazing St. Jude Children’s Hospital since last June.

Becker was pleased to meet his teenage fan and gave him a tournament poster, signed a match ball, gave him the racquet he used during the match and signed the handle.

American Tim Smyczek was first to advance in the qualifying event on the day; he defeated Scott Lipsky 6-2, 6-3. Australian Matthew Barton who has had a solid start to the season won a very tight match against American teenage wild card Tommy Paul 6-3, 3-6, 7-6.

Nashville native Brain Baker, who has experienced more than his fair share of injuries through his career, is excited to be back playing. His drive to keep overcoming adversity is highly commendable. Baker advanced to the second round of qualifying by defeating young Swede Elias Ymer 6-4, 6-4.

“Any time I get a chance to play in a pro tournament in Tennessee is great, especially since this is the only ATP tournament,” Baker said. “It’s always great coming back to Memphis and to have family and friends here.”

“Last year after coming back from such a long layoff, I never got my legs back to play week in and week out. It’s nice to get a quality win out there and hopefully I can build on this.”

In other results, Canadian Peter Polansky defeated India’s Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan 6-3, 6-3; Darian King of Barbados took out Memphis University product Andrew Watson 6-2, 6-3; Australian Matthew Ebden topped American Denis Kudla in 3 sets; and Tatsuma Ito of Japan toppled Irishman James McGee.

In Sunday’s final round of qualifying Polansky will meet Barton, Becker takes on Smyczek, Baker plays Ebden and King faces Ito. The winners of each of those four matches will advance to the main draw. To see the complete draw click here.