Marcos Baghdatis: Brief Peak, Eternal Smile

Marcos Baghdatis

Marcos Baghdatis capped off a 16-year career with a second round performance at Wimbledon. The Cypriot dismissed former college star Brayden Schnur 6-2 6-4 6-4 before succumbing to the in-form Matteo Berrettini 6-1 7-6 6-3. Following his elimination, fans at Court 2 of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club gave a fitting standing ovation to one of the most likeable players on tour.

Before turning pro in 2003, Baghdatis completed a fantastic junior career, lifting prestigious trophies such as the Australian Open or the Orange Bowl. Soon thereafter, the Limassol, Cyprus native lived up to the hype on the men’s circuit. His age-21 campaign was both his breakout season and his ceiling. In other words, he was the Tyreke Evans of tennis.

Two sets away from a Major title

At the 2006 Australian Open, an unseeded Baghdatis put together a near-flawless fortnight, overcoming tennis pariah Justin Gimelstob, Radek Stepanek, Denis Gremelmayr, No. 2 Andy Roddick, No. 7 Ivan Ljubicic and No. 4 David Nalbandian en route to the final. Only Roger Federer, arguably at the peak of his powers, was capable of halting the Cypriot’s progress, after mightily struggling for two full sets. The Swiss obtained his second crown Down Under with a 5-7 7-5 6-0 6-2 victory over the streaking outsider.

Later that year, Baghdatis went all the way to the semifinals at Wimbledon, picking up wins over Lleyton Hewitt or Andy Murray. Those strong Slam results propelled him to a career-high ranking of No. 8 on August 21st, right ahead of the US Open. At Flushing Meadows, Baghdatis played one of his most memorable matches. In the second round, he had the opportunity to put an end to Andre Agassi’s legendary career, but the Las Vegas standout survived in a four-hour thriller (6-4 6-4 3-6 5-7 7-5).

Baghdatis’ sudden rise in 2006 seemed to foreshadow future success. Nevertheless, his level plateaued and he would never sniff a Major quarter final after Wimbledon ’07. The emergence of all-time talents such as Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, the aforementioned Murray or Juan Martin Del Potro, along with the everlasting presence of Federer, made it extremely difficult for Baghdatis to shine. Besides, his fitness began to slip, something lethal for a player lacking a top-notch weapon to earn free points on a consistent basis.

All in all, Baghdatis compiled 349 tour-level match wins, including four titles (Beijing’06, Zagreb ’07, Stockholm ’09 & Sydney ’10). Despite his injury woes, he remained competitive until recently, winning the Shenzhen Challenger back in March.

Warning Mr. Baghdatis, racket abuse

Perhaps unfairly, the Cypriot will always be remembered by his rage-induced outburst at the 2012 Australian Open, when he broke four rackets during a single changeover in his duel against Stan Wawrinka.

The ATP tour will certainly miss one of its most charismatic personalities.

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