By Andreas Vou
DESPITE a thoroughly disappointing 2013, Marcos Baghdatis looks to be regaining some form following a mini-renaissance at the prestigious Sony Open in Miami.
2013 was a year to forget for Baghdatis. The Limassol native managed a personal low of losing in the first round of tournaments a massive 16 times, including a 12-match run of defeats. Fans, media, and even the man himself at times, had given up hope.
Nothing went right for the former world No.8. Whether he was facing the best in the business or a rookie just arriving on the scene, it seemed like Baghdatis’ career would just fade out.
However, he is bouncing back, slowly but surely. He received a wildcard invitation to Indian Wells but opted instead to use it for Miami, meaning he would have more time to prepare, and the risk paid off.
The 28-year old was pitted against Colombian Santiago Giraldo in the first round of a tournament in which he was making his seventh appearance. Most had written him off before the match started and after going down 6-1 in the first set, defeat seemed inevitable. However, Baghdatis proved everybody wrong, turning the match on its head and ended up winning in superb fashion.
Baghdatis faced Philip Kohlschreiber in the second round and pulled off another remarkable comeback to defeat the German. The Cypriot fell 6-3 in the first set but won the next two on the tie-break.
He went on to face world No.11 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in another exhilarating contest but this time was edged out by the Frenchman in a two-and-a-half hour thriller.
Baghdatis may have lost the match but he looks to have regained the confidence which his past successes have been based upon.
Currently without a coach having parted company with Croatian Zeljko Krajan, Baghdatis is training at the world-renowned IMG Academy in Florida, working alongside top-class coaches. He had trained there two weeks prior to the Miami event, which evidently had a positive impact.
President of the Cyprus Tennis Association, Filios Christodoulou, told the Sunday Mail how Baghdatis is training extremely hard to get back to the top of his game.
“He preferred to use the wildcard for Miami rather than Indian Wells. He preferred to prepare at the academy in Florida where he had time to fine-tune his game.”
Christodoulou is adamant that his decision to train in Florida has been crucial to his recent improvement, believing that the extra two weeks of preparation paid off.
“It seems as though the training and the extra time helped him do well. He did very well and the mtch against Tsonga showed how he is getting back some form. He won the first set and led 5-1 in the second set tie-break but ended up losing. It was very bad luck.”
Commenting on Baghdatis’ awful campaign last year, Christodoulou admitted that it was one to forget but is confident that he will back on form this year.
“In 2013 Marcos did not have best year, it’s true. He had much bad luck, many disappointments. But in 2014 he will find the strength to return, he is up to 124 in the world rankings, he has the ability and strength to return.”
Christodoulou also wanted to reiterate Baghdatis’ importance to Cypriot sport, believing that he should be looked up to for generations to come.
“He continues to be the benchmark, not just for tennis, but for Cypriot sport in general,” he concluded.
A momentary burst of form, or the start of a genuine revival for Baghdatis? Only time will tell but he is certainly giving his all and doing all he can. There is no longer that lethargic stride which he got into last season, with each defeat seemingly wearing him down.
Remaining in Florida, Baghdatis is preparing for the coming tournaments on the ATP World Tour, hoping to make 2014 a memorable campaign for all the right reasons.