When Marcos played Agassi

Cypriot's tale

When Marcos played Agassi

Andre Agassi, 36, did not have much of his youthful exuberance but the charm was very much there.

A young pretender, Marcos Baghdatis, at 21, was dying to prove himself on the world stage. He had of course reached the final of the Australian Open only eight months earlier but still he was relatively an unknown commodity.

It was the second round of the US Open in 2006. Agassi had already said that he would be retiring from professional tennis after the end of his home Slam.
Would the old warhorse muster one last fight in him to keep the dying light burning for a couple of more nights?

He did.

The match lasted five sets and the former World No 1 had prevailed 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 5-7, 7-5. This match turned out to be Agassi’s last victory on a tennis court.  In his seminal autobiography, ‘Open’, Agassi wrote: “I turn to see Baghdatis extending his hand. His face says, ‘We did that’. I reach out, take his hand, we remain this way, holding hands, as the TV flickers with scenes of our savage battle,” revealing the momentary bond they had shared while watching the highlights.  

It’s been eight years since that epic encounter under the Arthur Ashe lights but Baghdatis remembers the match clearly.

“It was a last Grand Slam win for Agassi,” he says. “I am not so happy about that (loss) but I am honoured to be in the first chapter of his book.

“It was amazing for both of us. At the end he smiled and it was great for him. I lost the match but I won so much more after that so that’s the way it is and I am really honoured to be part of it,” he explains.

That wasn’t the only famous five-set match that Baghdatis has played in a career that is, in a way, still waiting for lift-off eight years since that remarkable Melbourne run.  He was involved in a bitter five-set battle with Australia’s Lleyton Hewitt in a match which incredibly finished at 4.33 am Melbourne time in a third round affair at the Australian Open in 2008. Hewitt won the match 4-6, 7-5, 7-5, 6-7 (4-7), 6-3.

“My whole life was a bit of fighting and a bit of trying to find solutions in life,” the World No 87 says, describing his penchant for playing five sets.  

“I left home when I was really young. So that is my character I guess. I like to fight,” he says with a big smile on his face.

His immediate goals are clear. “I am feeling a bit better (health wise). But I have some issues with my ankle and I hope to solve them.

“If I’m done solving them, I think I can finish in the Top 50 by the end of next year. I hope to be playing in the (year-end) Masters in a couple of years.”

Will he? The wait could be long but it could be worth it at the end.

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