By Andreas Vou
MARCOS Baghdatis came close to pulling off another major upset in the third round of the Australian Open but eventually bowed out after an enthralling five-set encounter with world no.11 Grigor Dimitrov on Friday.
The 29-year-old Cyprus star matched one of the most highly-rated talents on the ATP Tour stride for stride, but the Bulgarian took the deciding set and won 4-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 in a contest which lasted three hours and 30 minutes.
Baghdatis’ performances in the previous two rounds against Teymuraz Gabashvili and David Goffin, both higher than him in the rankings, looked to have given the Limassol native the confidence to achieve another big win.
The former world no.8 was at his brilliant best in the opening exchanges and performed ruthlessly to take the set with a love service hold.
Even though Dimitrov responded in the second set to bring the match back to level terms, Baghdatis was back on the front foot in the third. Dimitriv, 23, was unable to capitalise on four break point chances in the ninth game of the set and Baghdatis went on to take a 2-1 lead.
With the vocal backing of hundreds of Greeks and Cypriots in the Melbourne crowd, the world no.78 looked to be heading towards a famous victory.
However, as Dimitrov grew more into the match, Baghdatis began to show signs of self-doubt and frustration which would take a toll on his performance.
The Bulgarian fought his way back and eventually turned it around to take a thrilling five-set win.
Dimitrov – the famous boyfriend of Maria Sharapova – paid homage to Baghdatis’ performance but was ultimately content with a hard-fought victory.
“Marcos was playing extremely good tennis,” Dimitrov, dubbed ‘Baby Fed’ for his playing similarities to great Swiss Roger Federer, said after the match.
“At the same time early in the match I didn’t go for my shots. Marcos, the crowd was for him. But at the end of the day, I kept the good composure, I won.”
Baghdatis’ six-year wait to reach the fourth round of a Grand Slam continues while Dimitrov will now face Andy Murray in the next round.