SPORTS

Winning return for Baghdatis

Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis made a winning return to Australia yesterday with a first-round victory at the Sydney International, while former women’s world No 1 Martina Hingis crashed out with a loss against Jelena Jankovic. Baghdatis crushed Latvia’s Emests Gulbis 7-6, 6-1 in his first appearance Down Under since his fairy-tale run to last year’s Australian Open tennis final, where he lost to world No 1 Roger Federer, 3-1. Baghdatis, currently ranked 11th in the world, made it to Australian shores having reached the quarterfinals at the Qatar Open, where he went down to Sweden’s Robin Soderling in straight sets, 6-3, 6-2. The Sydney International is the last stop for Baghdatis ahead of next week’s Australian Open in Melbourne. Baghdatis needed to call for the trainer to massage his hip after the first set of yesterday’s center court clash at Sydney’s Olympic tennis center. Still jet-lagged after flying into Sydney from Doha, the 21-year-old said he was battling the twin problems of soreness and fatigue but being back in Australia had inspired him to fight on. «After we massaged it, it was getting better,» he said. «I still have a bit of pain, but by treating it, it will go away. Whenever I see the Rebound Ace and the color of the courts, I just want to play. I’m not joking; I’m serious. I don’t know why, the sunshine and all the things, it gives you motivation to play.» Baghdatis will play Jan Hernych tomorrow for a place in the quarterfinals after the Czech qualifier upset last year’s runner-up, Italian Andreas Seppi, 6-4 6-2. Also warming up in Sydney for next week’s Australian Open, Lena Daniilidou, currently ranked 35, and her playing partner, German Jasmin Woehr, lost in the first round of women’s doubles competition against American Corina Morariu and Australian Rena Stabbs. Daniilidou opted to skip singles play at the Sydney International. The in-form Jankovic followed up her victory in Saturday’s Auckland Classic final with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 win over Hingis, who suffered her second defeat in three days having lost the final of the Australian women’s hard-court championship to Dinara Safina. Safina also made an early exit, losing 4-6, 6-3 6-2 to 33-year-old Australian Nicole Pratt, who is in her 20th and final season on the professional tour. (Reuters, Kathimerini)