Comfortable win for Baghdatis

Cypriot tennis star Marcos Baghdatis safely overcame his first-round opponent at the Australian Open, the 2002 champion Thomas Johansson of Sweden, for a comfortable 7-6 (7/0), 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 win yesterday. The 22-year-old, who had captivated the tennis world at the 2006 Australian Open when, as the world’s number 54, he vanquished seeds Andy Roddick, Ivan Ljubicic and David Nalbandian before going down to Roger Federer in the final, believes he is now better equipped to deal with the attention his crowd-pleasing game has drawn. He was loved to death by Melbourne’s vociferous Greek community and the hangover continued up to last year’s tournament when he was ambushed in the second round by Frenchman Gael Monfils. «Last year I had so much pressure, I put so much pressure on myself. I wasn’t experienced last year,» said Baghdatis, the tournament’s 15th seed. «This year I’m more experienced than last year. I’ve spent two whole years in the circuit.» In the second round, Baghdatis will face Russian Marat Safin, whose career has been hampered by various knee injuries since he conquered Federer in an epic five-set semifinal and went on to down Lleyton Hewitt in the 2005 Australian Open final. Safin, now ranked 58, defeated Latvian Ernests Gulbis, three slots below, in straight sets, 6-0, 6-4, 7-6 (7/2), for his second-round place. «I just need to play more matches and it’s going to come up. I’m playing well, moving well,» Safin said. «My knee doesn’t hurt. I don’t have any injuries and if I keep up this way, it’s going to be a good year.» After the uncertainties he has endured in recent seasons, Safin said he was relieved to be finally experiencing no pain during his matches. Greece’s Eleni Daniilidou was eliminated in the first round of women’s singles play following a 6-2, 6-2 defeat against Italy’s Tathiana Garbin. Constantinos Economidis, the country’s top-ranked tennis player on the men’s circuit, also suffered a first-round exit in straight sets. He was defeated by Chilean seventh seed Fernando Gonzalez, 6-4, 7-6 (7/2), 6-1, in a match that was marred by rowdy supporters of the Greek player in the stands. Play needed to be interrupted for several minutes when police stepped in to deal with a group of about 40 fans who had been singing loudly between points. Three people were sprayed and five were ejected from the arena. The ejected fans were banned from the tournament for 24 hours. «It was upsetting, I’ve never seen anything like it in my life at a tennis match,» Stephen Butterick, a producer for BBC Radio, told the local state broadcaster ABC News. (AFP, Kathimerini)