Re: Articles, News ...
I remembered that, some time ago, I had read something about Marcos, in our French Tennis Magazine. After some research, I've found it again, and I think that, though being a bit old, it's still very interesting to read. Hope you'll enjoy reading it as much as I've enjoyed translating it.
From Tennis Magazine, January 2005.
So, I suddenly got scared and felt like stopping it all straight.
By Guy Barbier.
Marcos Baghdatis can't erase this day from his memory: Sunday February 14th 1999, it was Valentine's Day. And he was already missing Danae. Danae, his girlfriend, who stayed in Cyprus. And him, Marcos, had just arrived in France. He was 13 ½.
More painful, even more bitter has been the next day. That Monday of his 1st training session, coached by Jean Paul Damit, at the Patrick Mouratoglou Academy, in Montreuil Sous Bois. First sufferings, first tears. "The session had been very tough. Jean Paul was yelling at me to move my ass. He'd given me some blowing up. So, I suddenly got scared and felt like stopping it all straight. I was crying when I left the court."
A thin trickle of tears before a flood, during the following weeks. It's gonna take 5 years to make them less bitter to the reminding, to legitimate them. With the Junior World Champion Title in 2003, first distinction of that sort for Cyprus. And "the joy and pride" for Marcos, "to have been able", he says, "to give back what I owed to all those who had helped me."
Marcos Baghdatis has good memory, which enforces his attaching side for those surrounding him. Yet, now that he's part of the most promising young pros, ranked 150 at only 19; how could he not remember the most teeny details of a very special progression?
For Marcos, born in Limassol, Cyprus, on June 17th 1985, all begins with his father Christos's devouring passion for tennis. It won't be Marinos, the elder brother, today aged 27. It won't be Petros, the 2nd son, 25, even if he played DC for Cyprus in 2002. And for Zina, the young adopted sister, aged only 6, one must still wait a bit...
So it's gonna be Marcos, sucked up behind his brothers by the Famagusta Tennis Club, its 8 courts, one of the 2 Clubs in Limassol. First hits with a coach, a Czech he never called otherway than Mr Paul. "I was 4 or 5. But only 1 year and a half when I'd first been given a racket."
The other Club of Limassol, the Sporting, aged 7. Other coaches: Bulgarian Kiril Yiasmakov, Romanian Jean Dobresko, Cypriot Yanos Hadjegeorgiou. With the latest, a further step is made: Marcos, 11, leaves his family in Limassol to settle down at Yanos's, 80 kms away, near the national center of Nicosy. On the world's general scale, these Cypriot movings are microscopic. Marcos Baghdatis's big migration starts though in the environment of an island, though small, but rich of multiple nationalities gathered together. Marcos has got the means to cope with every kind of situations: he's fluent in English. "I've been to the American Highschool in Limassol", he says," I've made all my studies in English, not Greek."
There won't be any communication trouble when Marcos Baghdatis gets contacted, twice in 1998, during the first international events he takes part, at the Petits As in Tarbes and the Under 14 tournament of the Stade Français, by Laurent Rizzo, the young talents ferreter of the Mouratoglou Academy, also in charge of the "agents" branch of the academy "Tennis Management".
"I had been stunned", he recalls", "by the irreproachable behaviour of that young guy on the court, but most of all, by his pleasure of playing and his joy of life. You could see that, for him, being there was some kind of a celebration." Of course, Laurent Rizzo had also noticed straight " a huge strength as well as a heavy ball, especially on his forehand, and also, an important ability to progress, openness to hard work."
That's how, after some phone calls with Christos Baghdatis, his 1st visit of the Montreuil site and a signed contract, Marcos arrives in Paris for the big adventure in February 1999. Marcos recalls " At first, my dad was with me. We were staying very close to the academy, in a 1st Class Hotel in Rosny Sous Bois. And after 1 week, he went back home."
Even though he goes and lives straight with that family, the Benhaim in Saint Maurice, with whom he gets on very well from the start, Marcos finds himself alone to face his big challenge.
It's been much harder than expected. "I was crying every night. I couldn't stop listening to Greek music, I was missing my family and my friends, and Danae too..."
After 3 weeks of this pace, Patrick Mouratoglou, the Academy director, has been the 1st to call Christos Baghdatis. "I told him his son was crying every day, that he seemed unconsolable and maybe it would be better that he goes back home. He then replied, don't worry, he's gonna stop and it's gonna be alright. Let's keep it up...."
4 more weeks were necessary to see the end of these loneliness strokes.
"The mood at the academy helped me a lot", tells Marcos, "everybody was very nice with me, there were a bunch of various nationalities, it was lively, joyful. And at the Benhaim, it was really like I was at home. They've been wonderful with me." At Laurent Benhaim's, manager of some computer graphic arts firm, successively in Saint Maurice then in Courbevoie, Marcos will stay for 4 years, sharing the bedroom with Jean Philippe, the son. The mother, Nathalie Benhaim, is considered a 2nd mother. "I used to tell her everything. Even about my girlfriend", tells Marcos. "We were talking and sharing everything when we were all together." Smiling, Marcos also remembers how once he's been blown up by Nathalie Benhaim. "I had given her my clothes far too late and I had a plane to catch on the next day."
The other main integration factor of Marcos was his French practising. On-the-job learning ("it was hard to find English teachers") and now a fluent practise. Even if Marcos, who dropped out school, aged 15, would like "to have some more lessons, in order to write and read it better."
Marcos's progression and well-being at the aademy have known only 1 obstacle, but which could have put a definite end to it all: his relations with Bob Brett. The famous Australian coach, who formerly worked with Boris Becker, was associated to Patrick Mouratoglou, between September 1998 and April 2003. "Bob had started deciding everything and everything was going wrong. Most of all, he didn't like me, he didn't trust me. And I had told him I didn't want to work with him. Of course, this, coming from a young guy like me, hasn't pleased him. I've started to look for where else I could go."
It was all the more pityful that Marcos was beginning to emerge. After missing very closely the Junior World title in 2002 (to Richard Gasquet's benefit), Baghdatis had just won the Junior AO title in January 2003.
"Luckily", he underlines, " Patrick fired Bob in April and everything went back to order."
This 2003 season has been the one when he won 4 "futures" events (3rd category of the tour), among them 1 in Cyprus, in front of his parents. And, last but not least, the Junior World Champion title.
Thanking all those who helped him, Marcos doesn't forget precising that, without Cyprus Federation financial support, including entire covering of his trips as well as his coach's, and without Patrick Mouratoglou's personally paying for all training fees, he would never have been able to do it, his parents just couldn't afford any of this.
"I like team sports and here", he says, showing the new installations of the academy, settled up since July 2004 in Thiverval Grignon, in the Yvelines, "it's a team, even more, a family. My title has made everybody happy." On the very 1st place, the one who was coaching him, Guillaume Peyre, as well as his physical trainer, Emmanuel Yague.
A first season among the pro tour which gave birth to some short movie, showed on Eurosport, "The Rookie", but which has badly started, because of some pubalgia which handicaped him for 4 months. But it ended on a very good note with 2 successes in a row, at the Bolton (UK) and Bratislava (Slovakia) challengers, Bratislava where he beat local hero Dominik Hrbaty in the final. Without forgetting about his strongest emotion of the year: his 2nd round match in Flushing Meadow on Arthur Ashe Stadium in which he took 1 set to Roger Federer in person.
What is he dreaming about? Winning a GS ("the USO, my favourite one, first") and.....DC for Cyprus (playing 3rd category!). Marcos has made his debuts in DC aged 14, being one of the youngest participants of all time. "I believe in it", he claims," as soon as we have a 2nd player, it's gonna be possible."
Just to fulfill his own dreams and go beyond the craziest ones of Christos Baghdatis...
Best of LUCK to ALL my Faves in 2015