‘I chat like a woman’

“Now tennis is the number two sport in Cyprus after soccer. Lots of young children are playing tennis and that’s very good for the sport.” Marcos Baghdatis talks to Nandita Sridhar.

I play to win. If in trying to win I entertain then that’s good. Entertaining comes naturally to me. I don’t try or think about it, it’s just my personality.

Marcos Baghdatis-R. RAGU

Marcos Baghdatis answers questions with such straightforward ease, and a charming self-assurance that he can get away with anything. The 22-year-old 2006 Australian Open finalist shrugged off most questions aimed at making sense of his style (refreshing, bordering on the idiosyncratic), but was candid while describing his match against Andre Agassi and admitting that he talked a lot, like a woman.

Excerpts from an interview:

Question: When you started out, you were the only player from your country on the Tour; were those early days lonely?

Answer: It wasn’t easy, but I had a good team around me, my coach and trainer. Then later I made friends on the Tour, there were partners and people I got along with. Slowly it got better. Nothing in life is easy. Life’s tough.

When you play, do you want to entertain the public as much as you want to win?

M. VEDHAN

I play to win. If in trying to win I entertain then that’s good. Entertaining comes naturally to me. I don’t try or think about it, it’s just my personality.

You had a melt-down after the 2006 Australian Open, where you made the final. What happened?

I think I put a lot of pressure on myself after the Australian Open. It was my first big success. I wanted to win every match after that. I felt I was expected to. Then when I lost, I began to lose confidence. The more I started losing, the worse it became. I lost a little bit of confidence with each loss.

How do you handle losses?

Every time you lose it’s for a different reason. Here in Chennai it was the first match of the year, I wasn’t getting much rhythm. I think the key is in trying to get by the big matches, winning at Grand Slams and at Masters Series events. It’s important to get more consistent, game-wise and results-wise. That takes time. Sometimes you take a year or two, sometimes you get there in six months. It’s important though not to carry your losses with you. It’s best to forget it and get on with it. That’s where I use my girlfriend and my coaches, I just talk it out.

How important is it for you to share your successes with others?

I like to share my victories and my special moments with my country and my family. We are a big family. I left home very early, at the age of 14, and whatever I learnt or achieved, I kept it to myself because I was on my own. That’s why now I want to give, I want to share everything, especially with my family, if not for them and the sacrifices that they made I wouldn’t be here.

Could you talk a little about your match against Andre Agassi in his farewell US Open in 2006? Was that one of the most emotionally charged matches you have played? (Baghdatis lost)

There were a lot of emotions in that match. There were 23,000 people there, all rooting for him. I felt like I was playing against all of them. I felt very, very small. I felt like an ant. There were a lot of nerves. Then I sat down and told myself to take it easy, to take it slowly. I worked my way into the match and made it two sets all. There were a lot of emotions on the court that day and as the match wore on I started cramping. I learnt a lot from that, it was a great experience.

What kind of an impact has your success had on tennis in Cyprus?

Now tennis is the number two sport in Cyprus after soccer. Lots of young children are playing tennis and that’s very good for the sport. I don’t get to see very much of it because I am out travelling, but I hear about it a lot, people tell me about it. Also during Davis Cup I get to see it, there’s a lot of support, and tickets are always sold out.

Which is your favourite city? And your favourite surface?

I like Melbourne for its atmosphere. My favourite surface is grass, it suits my personality. Even though I started my tennis on clay, I think that is the surface I need to improve on most.

What do you do in your spare time?

I don’t like reading, but there are other things I like to do while waiting around for my matches to start or just to spend time, like surfing the net, playing cards and switching on my PlayStation. Most of all, I like chatting all day. I’m like a woman that way.

Is there anything you would like to change about yourself?

(Smiles) Yeah, I would like to be number one in the world.