In form, fit and looking trim. Marcos Baghdatis devastated his out-of-form opponent Juan Martin Del Potro unleashing 20 forehand winners against one of the hardest hitters of the game.
Baghdatis may have been the fitter of the two, but Del Potro – the 2009 US Open Champion – was expected to emerge victorious despite his long lay-off in 2010 due to a debilitating wrist injury.
Baghdatis, and his legion of followers, had other ideas, the Cypriot running out to a relatively simple four set victory, 6-1, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.
11-ranked and 2010 Rolland Garos semi-finalist Jurgen Melzer is up next for Baghdatis on Saturday – the winner of the tie is likely to have the unenviable of a fourth round meeting with Andy Murray.
Despite Baghdatis 2.5 hour match barely days ago, the Cypriot 21-seed showed little signs of fatigue bursting onto Rod Laver Arena to break Del Potro in only the
fourth game of the match, a forehand and then a backhand winner doing the damage as the crowd erupted.
It was a sign of things to come, Marcos closing the set 6-1 after just over half an hour.
Del Potro’s famed forehand was off, and it was obvious, with the big Argentine hitting long and wide in the midst of some tough rallying.
If it was Baghdatis’ tactic, it was working, as Del Potro was unable to sustain long rallies with accuracy as unforced errors crept into his game (41 in total).
Baghdatis again broke early, the second set break coming in the third game when the Cypriot hit an odd winner as Del Potro let go of his racquet.
Clutching his injured wrist, Del Potro called a medical time-out as spectators feared the worst for the Argentine.
Oddly enough, Del Potro bounced back, winning his next service game to love, but Baghdatis would not be stopped, breaking again in the ninth game to win the second set 6-3.
Seats became vacant as neutrals sensed a blow out looming. Baghdatis’ fans were in fine vocal support as usual, singing tried and tested chants as they did when Marcos first burst onto the Australia scene.
Del Potro however, was not joining in the chorus.
He came out and broke Baghdatis to love, aided by three consecutive unforced errors from the Cypriot.
The next game would go on to be the match’s longest, as Baghdatis tried to bounce back immediately.
Big serving saved Del Potro and extended his lead to 2-0, the Argentine smashing home five of his ten aces for the entire match in this game alone.
In total, the game had 16 points, with three of those points having a combined rally of 50 shots.
But Baghdatis broke back – to love- in game six to tie the set at 3-3.
Again the Argentine clawed his way back into the match, breaking Baghdatis for the second time as Del Potro appeared to banish thoughts of his patched-up wrist.
He then served out the set, winning it 6-4 and a long with the set, many of the neutral fans left in the stadium.
Perhaps winning the third set was what Del Potro needed. Perhaps it will spur him on, having taken a tough and gruelling challenge against a much fitter player – a seed, no less.
But any fight he had in him quickly evaporated, with Baghdatis breaking the Argentine in the second game of the fourth set.
The serve began firing for Marcos, serving four in his next two games and as he served for the match, fittingly, his 15th ace sent his fans in raptures as the two athletes embraced at the net.
“I knew this was going to be tough, but I’m used to it, whenever I come here I have tough draws,” said Baghdatis of the difficult match.
“I was happy to get through my first round match because I was waiting for this match because I knew it could be a very tough match, I played pretty good so I’m very happy.”
“I knew before the match that he didn’t have a lot of matches on his feet, that put the pressure on me because I was a bit the favourite, but play fast balls, don’t give him time to play, and that’s what I did today, so I’m very happy, I played good today.”
“When you’re out of injuries it’s easier to keep the competition, keep working hard, it’s been a year and a half I don’t have any injuries touch wood, I’m working very hard, it will take time for sure, the same for Juan Martin.”