UNSEEDED Marcos Baghdatis produced a stunning performance to knock 23-seeded American Mardy Fish out of the Australian Open in their third round match on Friday night. The win set up a fourth round meeting with highly-fancied Serb Novak Djokovic.

The Cypriot, a finalist three years ago, rushed through the match beating Fish 6-2 6-4 6-4 in two and a quarter hours.

Baghdatis once again enjoyed the tremendous support of Greek and Cypriot fans in the stands who undoubtedly helped the Cypriot ace through the match.

The fans roared to life just as their Cypriot hero stepped onto the court, ensuring that Baghdatis would be the overwhelming crowd favourite at Hisence Arena.

After a tense opening match during which Fish served five aces, Baghdatis immediately broke and indicated that he would be headed towards a relatively straight-forward victory. The Cypriot unloaded 16 winners in the first set alone, undoing Fish’s serve-volley approach as he closed out the first set 6-2 in 47 minutes.

The second set saw more of the same as Fish saw unforced errors creep into his game, as the American finished the set with 16 errors to Baghdatis’ 10. However, Fish’s main weapon was his huge serve, and he continued to unload big serves during the set, including one mammoth 219 km serve, which Baghdatis had few answers for.

But Baghdatis’ disciplined ground strokes tired the big Fish and Baghdatis converted on his fourth break point opportunity, edging out to a 4-1 advantage.

The Cypriot was moving freely and buoyed by the partizan crowd, produced a number of impressive winners as he rounded off the second set 6-4 in 47 minutes.

The tiring Fish again proved unresponsive to Baghdatis’ energetic approach in the third set, and as the Greeks and Cypriots in the crowd roared their approval, Baghdatis closed out the match in straight sets, again winning 6-4. The match was closer than the score board suggests however and Fish will rue his high error count. The American made 45 unforced errors, while Baghdatis racked up just 29.

Baghdatis made it through to the third round of the Australian Open after beating 16th seed Robin Soderling in four sets on Wednesday (3-6 7-5 6-3- 6-3).

The Swede took the first set 6-3 before the Cypriot came back in style. A late break gave him the second set 7-5 and he then went on to take the next two after two hours 54 minutes on court.

Greeks and Cypriot tennis fans again have made their presence felt at the Australian Open, with vibrant and colourful displays. The well-behaved Hellenes will have undoubtedly drawn praise (albeit from behind closed doors) from police and security officials present at the Open.

Despite the heavy-handed police tactics from 2008’s Open that marred the Economidis-Gonzalez Round One match, Hellenic tennis fans have continued to show massive support to Marcos Baghdatis.

There were reports in the media that the Hellas Fan Club would officially boycott the Australian Open as a protest to treatment of some of its members by police in 2008. A member who wished to remain anonymous told NKEE that although some of the HFC’s members may be attending unofficially, the bulk of the group would stay away from the Open.

“As a group we have decided to refrain from making a huge presence felt at the Australian Open. Its a shame because we are always told that we bring a lot of colour and support to the Greek athletes on display. Of course many of our members will be showing Marcos support as individuals, but as an official group, the HFC will be enjoying the action from our air-conditioned living rooms!”, the member said.

Despite the HFC’s official boycott, at least 200 Greek and Cypriot tennis fans gathered together in the upper level of Hisence Arena when Baghdatis met big serving American Mardy Fish. The fans chanted, sang and cheered on Baghdatis who thanked the crowd for their support after the match.