James Crabtree is currently in Melbourne Park covering the Australian Open for Tennis Grandstand and is giving you all the scoop directly from the grounds.
By James Crabtree
MELBOURNE – If you have ever had a Greek or Cypriot friend you can usually assume they are going to show up late, then stay around till the early hours for a damn good time. Sadly Marco Baghdatis failed to live up to this stereotype, losing before he even had a chance to get started.
The cries of “Mar-COS-Bagh-DA-Tis” rang out well before the colourful Cypriot had taken the court. In fact the cries of his fateful followers echoed through the Rod Laver Arena in the match prior, between Maria Sharapova and Venus Williams.
Melbourne, which reportedly has the biggest Greek population outside of Athens, is a home away from home for Baghdatis and can count nine uncles and twenty cousins who live in the country.
Undeniably, Baghdatis was looking for revenge for the last time he had played Ferrer, a loss in Cincinnati in 2010. Ferrer was looking for payback for the last time they played in Australia, a five set defeat also in 2010.
The game had the prefect billing. Cyprus and Spain, souvlaki or paella, Baghdatis versus Ferrer.
From the outset David Ferrer’s plan was simple, outlast and outclass. From deep inside his own backhand side he was ripping forehands, with the quickness to cover his open court or venture forward if necessary.
Ferrer was in control from the beginning, taking the first set with relative ease. Baghdatis meanwhile planned a similar tactic, attempting to grind out each point without the recognition of who he was up against.
We expected it to be tough; we expected exceptional baseline play from two of the finest ball strikers in the game. Sadly it didn’t live up to its billing. Ferrer was too in control, like an older child who didn’t want someone younger to play his game.
Simply, workmanlike Ferrer plays the baseline grind better than almost everybody. He moves the ball and keeps it in play, a simple strategy with the focus of that of a Russian chess master.
There is a reason Ferrer led the tour last year in total wins and captured trophies.
Before the Marcos Baghdatis fans could really find their voice, Ferrer was in control reading his opponents serve early whilst rarely being troubled on his.
The third set was a mere formality for Ferrer, who appeared from beginning to end to want victory more than his opponent, running out with a score line of 6-4 6-2 6-3.
Afterwards Ferrer reflected that he is very much on form and where he wants to be. “Of course tonight it was my best match of this week. I’m very happy for that. For to win in three sets, Marcos, is difficult, no? And I did.”
Next up for Ferrer is an enticing encounter with Kei Nishikori. “It’s going to be a very physical match, no? Because he has a very good shots, very powered on all his shots. So I will be fast in my legs, no?” Ferrer told reporters before adding, “Of course, I will have to play my best tennis for to beat him because he’s a very great player. He’s younger player, and, of course, I think Kei is going to be a top 10 soon.”