Marcos Baghdatis’s exit from Dubai Tennis Championships typifies his frustrating career

The manner in which Marcos Baghdatis exited the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships typified the popular Cypriot's career, writes Ali Khaled.

Marcos Baghdatis fought back from losing the first set but retired with injury during the deciding set tie break. Pawan Singh / The National
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It was a far cry from Wimbledon Centre Court or Rod Laver Arena.

When Marcos Baghdatis walked out onto Court 3 on the outskirts of the Aviation Club, barely 20 people were there to greet him before his Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship second-round match against Borna Coric of Croatia.

The inauspicious start, sadly, would be matched by an anti-climactic finish, one that summed up his fluctuating fortunes since he burst onto the scene nine years ago.

In 2006, armed with a booming forehand and a never-say-die attitude, an unknown Baghdatis took the ATP scene by storm and big things were predicted.


Having caused a major surprise by dumping world No 3 Andy Roddick out of the Australian Open that January, the unseeded Cypriot came up against the unstoppable force that was Roger Federer in the final. There was no shame in losing in four sets to the Swiss legend, then already claiming his second title in Melbourne and his seventh grand slam title.

Five months later, Baghdatis showed this was no flash in the pan by beating Andy Murray and former champion Lleyton Hewitt to reach the semi-finals at Wimbledon, where he lost to Rafa Nadal in straight sets.

Baghdatis hit No 8 in the rankings and looked set for a long successful career. It has certainly been long, and bumpy, but injuries have ensured that success was never replicated on that scale again.

He ended 2006 12th and 2007 16th. By the end of 2008 he was down to 98th and 2009 saw him in and out of the top 100 before a return to form took him back to 42, and into a fine 2010 in which he beat Federer and Nadal while both were at No 1.

At the start of 2010 he was ranked 20th in the world, but he has not been higher since. Last year he sank as low as 155.

On Wednesday in the Dubai afternoon sun, there was renewed hope for the world No 62 as he emerged with his trademark bandanna away from the attention of centre court where Andy Murray was mauling Joao Sousa.

Baghdatis hinted there would be more than mere big forehands by winning the first game with a delicate drop shot.

Fleetingly, a high-quality match beckoned against Coric, who Novak Djokovic had paid the highest compliment by saying he had reminded him of himself.

It was a false hope. This proved a monotonous slog of a tennis match, in which, for long periods, both players were more concerned with not losing points than winning them.

Coric, hardly justifying Djokovic’s lofty words, won the first set 6-4 in 53 minutes. It took an identical amount of time for Baghdatis to win the second set 6-3. But this was not a match to set pulses racing.

The crowd had grown throughout the afternoon but they were not being repaid with exciting tennis.

Things improved slightly in the third set as Baghdatis raced to a 4-1 lead after a vintage winner down the line, but Coric then dragged the match into an ill-fated tiebreaker.

After Baghdatis had lost another seemingly endless rally at 4-4, he collapsed to the ground in what initially looked like mock despair, but it soon became apparent he had a cramp.

To add to the confusion, the physio was not immediately on hand as the umpire announced Baghdatis had retired from the match. As so often in the past, injury had brought to an abrupt end another chapter in Baghdatis’s career.

Coric showed genuine concern for his opponent, but is nevertheless in the quarter finals against Murray. The new Djokovic’s day may still come.

For Baghdatis, it was a familiar old story.

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