With Wimbledon rapidly approaching, we look at Marcos Baghdatis’ impressive 1-6 7-6(8) 6-4 fightback against Sam Querrey.
The crowd of fans outside Nottingham’s Centre Court is never bigger than when Marcos Baghdatis is in town. As the Cypriot emerged from the archway of Centre Court following his 1-6 7-6(8) 6-4 victory over Sam Querrey, a flood of programs and sharpies greeted him. On court, if it wasn’t for his distinctly Mediterranean complexion, Baghdatis could have easily been mistaken for a Brit. Every double fault was met with groans; every winner with marvels of appreciation. “It was a help, [and] maybe not so much help for him to finish the match,” Baghdatis said of the partisan Nottingham crowd. “Always to have the crowd behind you… it’s always a bonus and an extra push.”
After the opening set of his clash against American Sam Querrey though, it looked like it wouldn’t be the Cypriot signing autographs as victor. When asked what was breaking down for him in that first set, Baghdatis simply said: “My mind. I wasn’t there, very negative, very frustrated, very stressed. A lot of things.”
Querrey raced into a 3-0 lead after Baghdatis handed him his service game with a double fault. The unrelenting pace of Querrey’s fierce groundstrokes continued to upset his opponent’s rhythm. At 4-1, the American secured an unassailable double break and soon after, the set was his.
Baghdatis Battles to Defeat Querrey
Baghdatis attributed his comeback to reminding himself of the wider picture. “I said to myself after the first set okay man, so you maybe lose today but you have another tournament on grass which is Wimbledon so you can go to London [and] prepare,” he said. “All of a sudden I played point-per-point. I took it as a practice match.” Rather than the Aegon Open’s status of merely a Wimbledon build-up tournament de-motivating the Cypriot, it galvanized him to victory.
In the second set, Querrey largely maintained his fine display. Whereas Baghdatis tentatively shoveled the ball into play, the American was striking the ball with great freedom. In recent times, the 28-year-old seems to have omitted the somewhat superfluous backswing that plagued his forehand side. Against the low, skidding shots of Baghdatis, Querrey seemed to be reaping the rewards of this change. Despite a relatively poor first serve percentage of 52% in the first set, and 53% in the second, the World #33 did not face a single break point. That is surely testament of Querrey’s much improved baseline game. However, Baghdatis soon found some stability on his own serve. He likewise did not face a break point, and the second set remained on serve all the way to 6-6.
The tournament’s #9 seed and crowd favourite soon went down 4-1 in the tiebreak. He slumped helplessly, agitatedly gesticulating to his box. But then the Cypriot sprung into life. A punched backhand return caught out his approaching opponent and then at 2-5, Baghdatis produced two powerful aces. His bold vein of serving continued; at 5-6 he delivered another ace to stave off a match point.
Despite a second match point for Querrey at 7-8, Baghdatis fought off the big serving American to drag the match into a final set. “I’m very happy with the way I came back mentally and found my way in the second set and [in] the third set stayed positive,” he said.
That job of staying positive was made considerably easier early on in the final set, when Baghdatis clinched a vital break–his first of the match. But the pressure on him from Querrey did not avail, and at 3-2 the former Australian Open finalist had to battle through a long deuce game to hold onto his advantage.
At 4-3 though, Querrey’s pressure finally bore fruit. After a few anxious points from his opponent, Querrey swiftly took his opportunity, sending a passing shot sailing past the despairing dive of Baghdatis. When questioned whether he panicked at this point in the match, Marcos Baghdatis thought carefully. “I could say yes, especially after I lost the first two points on his serve,” he mused, “I started to think on the next game already.” But fortunately for the Cypriot, his anxious serving was reciprocated. Querrey’s first serve percentage slipped, allowing Baghdatis to get a stronger foothold in the rallies. And if the #9 seed wasn’t panicked, he was most certainly relieved when he took his break point, wheeling away to his chair in jubilation.
The celebration upon victory was much more subdued. Baghdatis simply looked at his box and pointed to his temple. His mind had let him down in the opening set–but it was certainly instrumental in the fightback.