Baghdatis becomes tabloid target as race tensions flare at Open
Melbourne (dpa) - Former Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis has become a tabloid target in Melbourne after a YouTube video showed the Cypriot socialising with a notorious Greek supporters group.
Media reports printed stills from a video reportedly shot at a BBQ of the local Hellas Fan Club with Baghdatis holding a red flare above his head and chanting anti-Turkish slogans with others.
Only hours after number 16 Baghdatis beat 2005 champion Marat Safin to reach the third round on Friday, Melbourne's Herald-Sun newspaper splashed revelations that a cousin of the popular player had been banned for trouble with police earlier this week at the tournament.
Baghdatis' home island of Cyprus has been a flashpoint for ethnic tensions since winning independence from Britain in 1960. Turkey invaded and occupied part of the island in 1974 in the wake of an attempted coup by Greek Cypriots.
Australian Open boss Craig Tiley confirmed that the VIP accreditation had been lifted from Baghdatis' cousin Filos after the man allegedly poured beer on a police officer on Tuesday.
But Marcos made sure that his relative was in the stands for the Thursday clash with Safin, giving him one of the tickets at his own disposal.
"When we found out who he was, I contacted Marcos's manager and Marcos," Tiley told the Herald Sun. "I just can't have him on the site as a guest of yours, so I'm pulling his accreditation.'
"It was a decision the tournament made because of everything that's going on. I just couldn't afford to have someone who was in any way associated with that to have the kind of access that he had."
The tournament has been on edge since Tuesday when police controversially charged into a crowd of rowdy Greeks during a match on Tuesday, using pepper gas crowds and sparking a firestorm of controversy.
That followed last year's mini-riot at Melbourne Park between rival Serbs and Croatians at what was once dubbed "the friendly Slam."
Baghdatis, who lost the 2006 final to Roger Federer while capturing the hearts of Melbourne's huge Greek community, will have a crowd of countrymen on hand when he plays Australian Lleyton Hewitt on Saturday.