Frozen In Time: Marcos Baghdatis Lights Up 2006 Australian Open By Dominic Bliss

For Marcos Baghdatis, 2006 will always be his annus mirabilis. This Cypriot player has been competing on the ATP World Tour for 17 long years but never has he enjoyed the limelight, or the success that he did at the 2006 Australian Open.
For two weeks, pretty much everything he touched turned to gold. He arrived in Melbourne ranked outside the world top 50 and a 300-1 outsider. What followed was an unbelievable performance that gained momentum and confidence with every round.
The 20-year-old first started showing what he was capable of in the second round when he beat the 17th seed Radek Stepanek in five sets. Supporting him in the stands were dozens of Greek-Australians who struggled to curtail their emotions as their man rampaged through the match. “They think it’s football,” he said after winning. “I love this feeling. It feels like home.”
If he thought the fans were loud for that match, it was nothing compared to the fourth round where he dispensed with the second seed Andy Roddick in four sets. After that, this ever-smiling player really started earning his money and giving his legions of fans, nicknamed The Greek Army, something to cheer about as he triumphed over seventh seed Ivan Ljubicic in the quarter-finals and then fourth seed David Nalbandian in the semi-finals. Both matches were fought over five tough sets. 
But it was the semi-final against Nalbandian that pushed Baghdatis to his very limits. The first two sets went with ease to the Argentinian. Baghdatis received treatment for an injury and it looked like it might all be over. But somehow, after interruptions from fireworks celebrating Australia Day and a rainstorm, the Cypriot completely changed the momentum of the match. He took the next two sets and was poised for victory at 5-4 in the deciding fifth when suddenly the heavens opened again. Both players exited the court while the roof was closed.
“On resumption, the Melbourne crowd – home to a massive Greek-Cypriot community – swept him over the line,” summed up one of the Australian TV commentators. “Even though Baghdatis would go on to lose to Federer in the final, this match was undoubtedly the highlight of the tournament and the moment Baghdatis became the darling of the Australian public.”
The Cypriot is still competing on the ATP World Tour 11 years after that glorious run in Melbourne, and he still enjoys the attention of legions of fans whenever he plays Down Under. It is fair to say, however, that he has never fulfilled the potential he showed back in 2006. Later that year he reached the semi-finals of Wimbledon. Since then, however, he has never progressed beyond a Grand Slam quarter-final and astonishingly has only ever won four ATP World Tour titles.
It’s true that multiple injuries have hampered him. At one point, he even dropped down onto the ATP Challenger Tour and twice he’s slipped outside the world top 150.
But no one will ever take away that glorious fortnight in January 2006 when, just momentarily, he walked among tennis’ greatest.

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