Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Healthy Baxter Gets Revenge

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Healthy Baxter Gets Revenge

Article excerpt

TENNIS USTA NATIONAL 50S CLAY COURT CHAMPIONSHIPS

SARASOTA -- The fist pump by Rill Baxter after he finished off Jeffrey Burnett with a sweet backhand volley spoke volumes.

Rill really, really, got his revenge. Two quick, dominating sets allowed Baxter to show a bit of emotion.

It was a bit of a catharsis for a player who felt he should have never lost his match against Burnett a year ago here in the USTA National Men's 50 Clay Court Championships on his home courts at the Sarasota Bath and Racquet Club.

"I was very upset because I felt last year's tournament was up for grabs, anybody could win it," Baxter said. "Obviously, that loss put me out."

But not down. Baxter feels the tournament is up for grabs again and, Thursday, the former tournament champ made certain Burnett would not be the player to derail this year's run.

Playing with precision and exhibiting new-found confidence generated by better health, Baxter, who grew up learning how to play the game on these courts, dominated the match against the tournament's fourth-seeded player.

"I don't know if he played his best, or I just played better," Baxter said. "It's hard to tell. Did I make him play bad, or did he just play bad. I really don't care at this stage."

What Baxter does care about is how he feels, which is a whole lot better than a year ago when hip, knee and elbow problems prevented the Sarasota resident from playing his best.

"I am in better health than I have been for the last three years," Baxter said. "I mean I actually don't hurt. It is a sneaky improvement."

More like radical. Baxter had stem cell treatment in September in three places on the right side of his body. The surgery was performed by Dr. James Andrews, the world famous sports orthopedic surgeon and doctor to star athletes. The results have been remarkable.

"I had my name No. 1 on every hip surgeon's list in town," Baxter said. "Everyone was eager to do the job. For the moment, I have passed it down the road a bit."

A three-set win over Burnett in July at the National Hard Court tournament in Santa Barbara, California, gave Baxter a bit of confidence. The surgery, and lots of therapy with the help of a good friend in Sarasota, did the rest. …

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