When the Argentine Eduardo Infantino accepted to be the new Marcos Baghdatis' coach, he knew it was a risky gamble. The Cypriot had just lost at the French Open first round to Juan Monaco, and the coach famous for his backhand was following an Italian promise, Matteo Trevisan, in the center for excellence owned by the Federation, in Tirrenia.
Baghdatis, who has never enjoyed much the professional part of being a professional athlete, looks like the perfectly normal guy whom happened to become a champion. But after the 2006 exploit at the Australian Open, when he reached his first, and until now last, Grand Slam final losing to Roger Federer, the Cypriot, with a large amount of fans throughout the world was never capable to confirm his level.
And many started to think he, despite of his talent and natural sympathy, would be destined to remain just a meteor once breaking the top-10.
In six months, instead, Infantino won his bet, despite the odds were not favourable to him. Baghdatis closed the 2009 winning three Challenger events and reaching the final at the ATP 250 in Stockholm, re-entering in the top-50, before opening his 2010 triumphing in Sydney, where he showed himself fitter and faster than he was in the last two years.
With new speed in lateral movements, and a regained self-confidence, Baghdatis, coming through an intensive training schedule, defeated Lleyton Hewitt and survived a marathon-semifinal against Mardy Fish, beaten 76 in the third after 2 hours and 57 minutes.
And, despite him being the conqueror of "(once) Rusty", the crowd heavily supported him against Richard Gasquet in a final full of skills and beautiful strokes, like a pair of crosscourt passing shots by both players. The Frenchman, who we can imagine, with a bit of wickedness, "kiss the rain" blessing him with an interruption after he lost the first set 64, confirmed all his difficulties in fill up the expectations and live up with the pressures.
Centred and showing his masterpiece one-handed backhand in all the possible variations, Gasquet was definitely affected by a stuttering serve in the first set when he was broken in the very first game but then conceded only four points in as many service games. And in the second by the long-time performance anxieties blocking him in the closing stages of big matches.
In the second set, when he was up 5-3 and serving to force the final to a decider, he ran into an untimely double and saw a pair of not impossible groundstrokes float long and wide with no pace.
And Marcos Baghdatis, with his inseparable bandana with the flag of Cyprus stamped on it, came back and prolonged the set to a tiebreaker soon transformed in his triumphant monologue. After an astounding backhand volley, Gasquet gifted the match with 6 unforced errors out of 7 points, including two doubles in a row.
From Monday Baghdatis will be n.31 in the world rankings, but he has to defend the 180 points conquered with the 2009 Australian Open round of 16. The Cypriot, who has won three of the last 4 tournament he played, and 16 match out of the last 17, can disrupt destines and fortunes in the approaching major.
And nobody will be hurted by an eventual exploit by the charismatic Cypriot. When he wins, as when Tsonga wins, it's the victory of tennis.