A tennis champion with Lebanese roots is born
Unseeded tennis player Marcos Baghdatis, a Cypriot with Lebanese roots, will meet world No.1 Roger Federer in the Australian Open final on Sunday. [He lost...better luck next time].
The 54th-ranked Baghdatis, a 250-1 long shot at the start of the tournament, upset fourth-seeded Argentine David Nalbandian in the semi-finals. Baghdatis is trying to become the first unseeded player to win the tournament since Mark Edmondson in 1976.
Baghdatis is a wonderfully ebullient character who radiates
"I feel like I am at home," Baghdatis, 20, said to an Australian newspaper. "I have 21 cousins here from my Lebanese father's side and I have uncles here too. I love the atmosphere and I love the fans. They are crazy and make me feel very, very comfortable. They help me play my best tennis and feel really confident."
[Al Anwar newspaper wrote on Saturday 28 January 2006 that Christos Baghdatis, Marcos' father, is from Tripoli and that his original family name is Baghdadi. Christos, who lives in Limassol, told the paper that the family along with Marcos will visit Lebanon soon.(http://www.alanwar.com/ar/article.php?id=15260)].
Baghdatis, who started playing aged five, was packed off to a French boarding school to develop his game when he was 14 under an Olympic Solidarity scholarship.
His tough on-court mentality was shaped by this parting from his family and particularly his mother Androulla, highly unusual in the close-knit communities of Lebanon and Cyprus.
"He has sacrificed everything -- his parents, his life here," says Simon Aynedjian, the Cyprus over 35 and over 45 champion.
"I've seen him with his mother, and how affectionate and lovey-dovey they are. He misses it, he has given everything for the game."
He has a younger sister, Zena, and two older brothers who also played Davis Cup for their country. His girlfriend (see picture) is called Camille.
However, The military draft could wreck the tennis player's career if army chiefs on the east Mediterranean island decide to call him up, and his family says the uncertainty is affecting his game.
Not that you would guess from his performances at the Australian Open.
After his extraordinary run at the tournament, Baghdatis is the talk of both Lebanon and Cyprus, countries with virtually no tradition in tennis.
Unfortunately for the unseeded 20-year-old it is virtually impossible to dodge the draft in Cyprus, with all males aged over 18 having to spend 26 months in the armed services.
"We are pleading with the military to give him exemption from the army... they should at least inform him that he will not have to do the army until he is 35. But they are not willing to do that," Baghdatis's Lebanese father Christos was quoted as saying by the Cyprus Mail.
"He is constantly being given postponements from the Ministry of Defense regarding his draft. It is in itself a worry for our son."