South Africa: Baghdatis Says He is in SA Open to Win It
29 January 2009
Johannesburg — A MUCH more confident Marcos Baghdatis arrived at Montecasino last night and declared: "I am here to win."
The Cypriot is one of the top draw cards in the ATP South African Open tennis championship starting on the casino courts on Monday.
He flew into a rain-drenched Johannesburg from a sweltering Australian Open in Melbourne, having reached the fourth round. There, he came up against reigning Open champion Novak Djokovic of Serbia and went down in four sets -- but not without the characteristic fight to the end.
"I was very pleased with my results in Melbourne," said Baghdatis. "Not only Djokovic, but my first three matches too. I was able to fight hard and the best thing was that I did it without any pain."
Last year was sheer torture for Baghdatis, with an ankle injury forcing him out for two months, then a wrist injury causing him to miss the French Open and the Beijing Olympics. "That was the worst, because I really wanted to win an Olympic medal for my country," he said.
Then, towards the end of the year, a disc in his back shifted during a tournament in Metz, forcing him to take more time off. So he went to Melbourne feeling less than confident, and it showed on occasion in his serve, which never reached the high percentages that it needed to in that company.
"I was terrible in the first set against Djokovic, but I am okay with my serve. Apart from that, it was always there when I needed it in the other matches.
"There is nothing wrong with the technique, it's all just a matter of confidence. I am more confident in my body now and my serve will improve," he said.
"It is great to be able to come here feeling fit and strong. I am tired right now after a very long flight but I will be on the court tomorrow to test the altitude."
While Spaniard David Ferrer set a cat among the pigeons on Sunday by suggesting Spanish left-hander Ferdinand Velasco would win the Australian Open, Baghdatis said he could not see Velasco getting past compatriot Rafael Nadal, his semifinal opponent.
"Conditions in the Melbourne heat are very tough -- that is why you get upsets. But I cannot see anything other than a (Roger) Federer-Nadal final. Velasco is good but I don't think he has the weapons to beat Nadal."
Baghdatis was almost affronted when a journalist asked him how far he expected to go in the Open. Would he be happy to reach the quarterfinals?
"I am here to win," he said. "I know each match will be tough and I will just have to keep on fighting. But I fought well in Melbourne. If I carry on fighting here I can do well."
The ATP released the final entry for the event yesterday with German Simon Gruel, ranked 126, replacing the injured Gael Monfils. Italian Favio Cipola (127) and Stephane Bohli of Switzerland (128) have taken the last two spots to make up the 25 direct acceptances. Three wild cards and four qualifiers complete the draw.