Unseeded Cypriot’s fairy tale continues at Australian Open

MELBOURNE – Unseeded young Cypriot Marcos Pagdatis won through to the semi-finals of the Australian Open after downing Croatian seed Ivan Ljubicic in a stirring five-setter, 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 3-6, 6-3 yesterday. The 54th-ranked Pagdatis, the fairy-tale story of the year’s first Grand Slam tournament, was on track for a convincing straight sets victory before he was dragged into a fifth set by the seventh-seeded Ljubicic. Pagdatis will now play Argentina’s fourth seed David Nalbandian tomorrow for a place in the final. [Pagdatis met the Argentinean twice last year for a win and a loss. The young Cypriot won their first encounter, a semifinal clash at the Swiss Indoors, with a 6-2, 7-6 score, but then lost to Nalbandian in the second round at the French Open in four sets, 0-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.] «I think it’s all going crazy in Cyprus with all the people watching my matches, especially my parents,» said Pagdatis, whose infectious grin and exuberance have won him many fans in Australia. «In the third set I started thinking a lot, I was putting some doubts in my head and he started playing well and got some confidence, the points were going too fast and I couldn’t control the game. In the fifth set I just said ‘don’t miss a ball and play for every point’ and that’s what I did. I am very happy, I played great tennis again and I went through.» It was the 20-year-old’s third win over a seeded player at the tournament, after eliminating 17th seed Radek Stepanek, second seed Andy Roddick and Ljubicic. Pagdatis also remains unbeaten in five-set matches at 5-0 and becomes the first unseeded player into the Australian Open semifinals since Russian Marat Safin in 2004. Ljubicic hit more outright winners 61-47, but Pagdatis cut his errors down to 26 in five sets against the Croat’s 57. He broke Ljubicic’s serve four times off 15 break point opportunities as opposed to Ljubicic’s two from nine. Buoyed by a chanting cheer squad in Rod Laver Arena, it was the Cypriot’s second win over the Croat here, after he beat him in the second round of last year’s Open. Ljubicic thought he deserved to win this one. «I’m disappointed. After the third set I thought I was going to win, I was finally getting some rhythm,» he said. «He returned well, he is good player, no question about that, but I think I deserved this one.» Ljubicic, who had not dropped a set heading into the match, began tentatively and committed three times more errors than the pony-tailed Cypriot, whose forehand was again a big weapon as it was in his career-best upset of Roddick. Pagdatis had Ljubicic under pressure from the start and had eight break points before he broke the Croat’s service in the ninth game of the opening set. Ljubicic’s first break point didn’t come until the fourth game of the second set and Pagdatis fended off two break points to hold serve and then broke Ljubicic’s next serve a second time to take the second set. Ljubicic found renewed confidence and momentum and broke Pagdatis in the fourth game of the fourth set on the way to levelling the match. Pagdatis made a screaming backhand cross-court passing shot to break Ljubicic’s serve in the fourth game of the deciding set to lead 3-1. As he did against Roddick, Pagdatis calmly served out the match and wrapped it up on the first of his two match points when Ljubicic netted a backhand.

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