Publish date:

A New Greek in The Pantheon

As any local will tell you, Melbourne lays claim to more Greek residents than any other city outside of Greece. As soon as chronic underachiever Mark Philippoussis (a Melbournian of Greek extraction) crashed out of the Australian Open's first round, Hellenic partisans found another player to support. Marcos Baghdatis, a 20-year-old Greek Cypriot, stormed through the first week playing spirited, flashy tennis. Even before he smacked down No. 2 seed Andy Roddick to make his first Grand Slam quarterfinal, Baghdatis was feta'd like a hero. His cheering section--"some sweaty dudes," Roddick called them--grew with each round: Scores of fans wrapped in Greek flags serenaded Baghdatis with cryptic chants ("Marcos, you're crazy with the white T-shirt!") and heckled his foes. "It was an unbelievable atmosphere," Baghdatis said, "just like Davis Cup."

Baghdatis left Cyprus at age 14 to train in Paris. A top junior, he won the Australian Open boys' title in 2003. But in part because he lacked the financial support of a national federation, he sometimes struggled as a pro. After his run in Melbourne, however, his ranking will climb at least into the top 50. Which is to say, to the delight of the sweaty dudes, we'll see a lot more of that crazy Marcos with the white T-shirt.



HEAVY HITTER Baghdatis met Roddick's power with power and prevailed in four sets.