By Andreas Vou
Marcos Baghdatis made an unhappy return to his favourite Grand Slam tournament as he was knocked out of the Australian Open in the first round by ninth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in four sets (6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2) on Monday.
This edition of the tournament marked ten years since the Cypriot’s memorable run to the final which captured the nation.
The then-unknown 20-year-old defied the odds as he defeated heavyweights such as Ivan Ljubicic and David Nalbandian en route to a showdown with Roger Federer which, despite leveling the match in the second set, he ultimately lost.
Baghdatis, now ranked 46 in the world, will be forever associated with that fairytale run to the final, which was the highlight of his career. Since then however, he has failed to go beyond the third round of the year’s opening major.
This time around, he was faced with a tough task from the very start, against the powerful Tsonga. The Frenchman’s break at 3-1 turned the first set into his favour and while the Cypriot is sometimes known for letting his head drop, he matched his opponent toe-to-toe until the very last point, and even had a chance to break back at 5-4, but Tsonga ultimately pulled through.
The Greek and Cypriot community of Melbourne were in full voice as ever to support their beloved Baghdatis, and played a big part in him levelling the match in the second set. The 30-year-old was the pace-setter, holding his serve throughout and, with Tsonga serving to stay in the set, the Frenchman vented his frustration at the crowd, protesting to the umpire before being broken.
The pair were inseparable again in the third set, only this time it was Tsonga who had the last laugh as he broke Baghdatis in the penultimate game to take the set 6-4.
While Baghdatis proved a more than worthy opponent in the first three sets, the fourth was where the 2006 runner-up eventually came undone.
Tsonga grabbed the first break of the set to make it 3-2, then followed it up with another one to make it 5-2 before putting the icing on the cake on his own service game to wrap up the match.
Chants of “Marcos Baghdatis” rang around the Margaret Court Arena at the end , but it was another early exit for the man who set the tournament alight ten years ago.