By Andreas Vou
MARCOS Baghdatis needed a wildcard to gain entry to Miami’s Sony Open after falling out of the top 100 at the beginning of 2014.
Last year was an awful campaign for the former world No.8, who lost in the first round of events a whopping 16 times. This included a 12-match run of losses stretching between the quarter-finals in Rotterdam and the semi-finals in Washington.
The Cypriot star took on Colombian Santiago Giraldo in the first round of the prestigious ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament in the early hours of Thursday in South Beach, where he was making his seventh appearance in Florida
It looked like it would be a similar story for Baghdatis in another first round of a tournament as he went down 6-1 in the first set.
His only win of the year until Thursday’s match had come in Acapulco when he defeated Miguel Angel Reyes-Varela in straight sets.
However, the Limassol native showed great character to get back into a game which many had written him off before he even stepped onto the court.
After losing the first set, Baghdatis opted for a change of clothing, swapping his bright orange shirt for a more subtle baby blue one, and it seemed to help his cause.
He dominated the second set with his devastating serve, claiming 71 per cent of his first-serve points, and a whopping 75 per cent on his second serve which led to a convincing 6-2 set win to draw the match level.
It was the third and final set in which he really looked like the Baghdatis of old. Trailing 5-2, looking dead and buried, the start of a dramatic comeback came when he broke Giraldo in the next game.
He then followed it up by serving three straight aces to start the ninth game which he won, closing the gap to 5-4.
A strong forehand leveled the match, and an additional three aces claimed the next game which put Baghdatis ahead for the first time in the set.
The match was over after Giraldo hit a forehand long . Baghdatis fell to his knees and kissed the court, brimming with joy after his superb victory.
The only previous meeting between the two had come four years ago on the hard courts of Kuala Lumpur in which Baghdatis came out on top in straight-sets.
However, that was just after Giraldo had broken into the top 100 for the first time and Baghdatis was an established top 50 player.
Giraldo was the strong favourite this time, which makes Baghdatis’ win all the more impressive.
As a result, the No. 143 ranked Cypriot will meet 24th seed Philipp Kohlschreiber in the second round.