Playing ITF tournaments along with ATP tour events might prove a bit much for some, but for Marcos Baghdatis seen here with our Michael Yiakoumi, it has only enriched his playing skills since the time he turned pro in 2003. He won his first ATP title at the 2006 China Open and the following year won the Zagreb Open in Croatia.
He suffered a knee injury in 2009 at Hertogenbosch after defeating Tommy Robredo in straight sets. The injury kept him form Wimbledon but he has gone from there to win challengers and other titles, recovering nicely from other ailments and injuries.
Baghdatis comes off as quite a surprising veteran player whose performance on the court can never be predicted. He brought a large chunk of that unanticipated play when he played the last 16 round spot with hometown favourite Lucas Pouille at the Open Sud de France in Montpellier.
Pouille, fresh off from two dynamic wins at the Australian Open defeating Australia’s teen start Alexei Popyrin and winning over Croatia’s Borna Coric who’s defeated many top players, a strong contender for any opponent.
But Pouille might have been apprehensive in front of his hometown crowd but the butterflies didn’t hinder him as he pounded the court with precise winners over Baghdatis at the first set. Pouille zoomed to a 5-2 lead in the opener and everyone applauded thinking their Frenchman would take the first set, but it didn’t happen.
Baghdatis pulled out his experience and slowly climbed his way up, cross court in a manner that startled the Frenchman into making a bunch of unforced errors. The strategy worked and it was from there that the Greek was on point, executing perfect overheads and finding the open court for winners.
It was a see-saw of points that were blasted between the two but their determination sent the set into a tiebreak of which Baghdatis won. The second set was a restructuring of aggression for Pouille correcting the mistakes made in the opener and started scoring big time over Baghdatis.
The Frenchman up a break but the break the Greek used well to re-group mentally. He came back on the court and was up a break. Pouille never gave up, making gritty plays to win points and his determination mattered as the set went to another tiebreak in the Frenchman’s favour.
The match was levelled by two tiebreaks and Baghdatis worked on his years of experience over the younger opponent going up 3-1 in the decider interrupted by medical timeouts for a possible hamstring ailment. The Greek lead 5-4 and soon had captured the set, match and round at 7-6, 6-7, 6-4.
The quarterfinal was a disappointment from Baghdatis’ last round. It was visible that his energy and will was depleted. It was his opponent Radu Albot from Moldova who had the surge and spunk and ran off 4 games to Baghdatis only having one.
Albot had the leg power and strategy performance whereas the Cypriot was running almost on empty. Albot won the first set quickly at 6-2. The few Baghdatis aces didn’t make the difference and he soon was looking forward to the next set, ailing from leg issues along the way.
The second set had tension, suspense and drama. Albot led 2-1 without nearly breaking a sweat. It was contrary to Baghdatis who struggled physically and mentally. The Cypriot had spurts of energy, slamming a shot in the corner of the court and a few overheads with the match scoring 4-3 but the Moldovian was leading.
Then there was a 24 shot rally and Baghdatis won that to level the games at 5-all. Meanwhile, Albot began to get a bit tired and started producing unforced errors making the last set an up and down irregular performance. Albot just wanted to win and go on to the semis as he pounced on every ball the Greek gave him.
Baghdatis wanted the match over but pushed it to a tiebreak. Frustrations on the Greek’s side prevailed more than good tactics and victory points and soon Radu Albot was shaking hands with an exhausted Baghdatis winning the round at 6-2, 7-6.
The Cypriot is a pure fighter whose gritty and feisty play with his experience of playing years makes his performances totally unpredictable. He is indeed still a player that everyone wants to see play no matter the result or duration it takes Marcos Baghdatis to finish the match.