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Cyprus Internet Directory [ Entourage keep track of Baghdatis’ progress ]

Entourage keep track of Baghdatis’ progress

“EXCUSE ME,” I asked in Greek to a man who by his complexion was clearly neither British nor Swedish and who was waiting outside Wimbledon’s Court 1 on Wednesday before Marcos Baghdatis’ second round match with Sweden’s Thomas Johansson, “are you by any chance Cypriot?”

“Yes,” he replied.

“And did you come from Cyprus to watch Baghdatis?”

Again affirmative.

“How did you get tickets? Did you come in a group?”

He gestured towards his left at a group of Cypriots whom I had not yet seen: “Baghdatis’ mother.”

Considering that Cypriot family trees seem to branch out indefinitely, it might seem apt that the first group of Cypriots I had encountered was the Baghdatis family entourage. But many Cypriots without any relation to Marcos made the trip out from the Mediterranean to see him play.

Vicky Nicolaidou, 25, a Cypriot currently living in London, said she recognised someone in the stands whom she knew was presently residing in Cyprus. “I was surprised Cypriots came from so far but that only shows the interest in tennis that Baghdatis has generated among Cypriots,” Nicolaidou said.

Baghdatis’ mother confirmed the Cypriot migration: “A lot of families have organised tours and have come from Cyprus to see him,” she said. “I saw plenty of them at the last match.”

Although Andri Baghdatis has been to Wimbledon every year since her son catapulted into tennis stardom during the 2006 Australian Open, Wimbledon remains the only Grand Slam event she has attended. “It’s easier for me to attend this one than the others,” she explained.

But she should maybe consider a trip to New York’s Flushing Meadows in August, albeit for superstition’s sake, as her presence at her son’s matches seems to have an inspiring effect on his performances.

Outside of his 2006 run to the Australian Open final, Marcos has consistently progressed further at Wimbledon than at any other tournament. This is why, despite dropping to a world ranking of 25 partly due to injury, Wimbledon officials seeded him tenth in the tournament. In 2006 Rafael Nadal knocked him out at the semifinal stage and last year Novak Djokovic edged him out in a five-set, five-hour quarterfinal (fifth round) thriller that was five minutes short of being the longest match ever played at Wimbledon on a single day.

This seeming mother-son connection goes both ways, and often across oceans. During Baghdatis’ Australian Open final against Roger Federer, Andri had to be rushed to a clinic when severe stomach pains overwhelmed her shortly after she saw her son suffer from a cramp during the match. Doctors diagnosed gallstones and operated on her the following morning.

This year seems to portend more grass court success for Baghdatis. He has dropped only one set in his first three matches. With Novak Djokovic and David Nalbandian eliminated, Baghdatis is presently the highest ranked player in his quarter and is on par to meet Roger Federer in the semifinals.

A moment in the third set during his second round match with Johansson foreshadowed this potential Baghdatis / Federer showdown. Baghdatis was leading two sets to zero and Johansson had just held serve to lead 3-2 in games. During the 90-second break for the change of sides, the scoreboard momentarily displayed the score of the ongoing Federer / Soderling match. In a mirror image of the score, Federer also was leading two sets to zero and Soderling had just held serve to lead 3-2 in games. Both Baghdatis and Federer took the third set to advance to Friday’s third round. Both would win their third round matches in three sets.

Baghdatis is confident about his Wimbledon prospects. He told me that his goals for this year were at least to do better than last year, which was getting to the semi-finals: “I won’t be surprised if I find myself in the semis and maybe beat Roger.”

But Baghdatis has no illusions about what would be required of him to defeat the Swiss maestro, whose Friday victory over French veteran Marc Gicquel marked a record 62nd consecutive win on grass. When asked, Baghdatis offered a one-word, dead-on response: “Everything.”

Baghdatis is demonstrating the same confidence on court as off. Known for his astonishing runs of exceptional play but also for his occasional match-derailing lapses of concentration, Baghdatis seemed to maintain an almost Federer-like composure during his fourth round match, aside from the occasional pump-me-up cries of “Let’s go!” after crucial winners.

He admitted that his good rapport with his new coach Peter Lundgren – who coached Federer from 2000 to 2003—also helps with his increased on-court concentration. “When I feel good with my coach, with my team, then I feel I am all the time focused.”

While Baghdatis may prefer the raucous atmosphere of the Australian Open over Wimbledon’s more restrained—or, depending on point of view, civilised—atmosphere, grass remains his favourite surface.

“Grass is just unbelievable,” he said. Revealing his Cypriot roots, he added, smiling, “It’s like playing soccer.”

(Source: Cyprus Mail)

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