Fated To Be

BMW Open Munich, Second Round

Dimitrov d. Baghdatis, 3/6 7/6 6/2

It is now over twelve months since Marcos Baghdatis defeated Roger Federer after the latter held match points, thereby introducing a jagged Shostakovich-tinged tune that was fated to become a leitmotif of the Swiss master’s year. Federer was to reprise this achievement three more times before 2010 became history, and this new-found capacity to wrench defeat from the jaws of victory has grown into a key theme in the essentially fugal discourse of his decline. For fans of Federer, especially the zealots, Baghdatis has a lot to answer for.

Well, what goes around comes around as they say – I’m pretty sure they say it in the Bible, somewhere near the back – and the pious entreaties of the Federer faithful have been answered. For the second time in as many tournaments, Baghdatis has fallen after holding match points. Last time it was in Monte Carlo, to Radek Stepanek, while today it came against Grigor Dimitrov, in Munich; the omega and alpha of both tour experience and facial structure. The depressing aspect, if you’re Baghdatis, is that he was clearly the stronger player for the first couple of sets. Until 6-4 in the second set tiebreak, Dimitrov had hardly made a return. Given his inexperience, victory seemed unlikely, regardless of what the idiotic commentator thought. Nonetheless, the Bulgarian hit out with calm assurance on those two matchpoints, and it was the more credentialled Cypriot that conjured the errors. The first only missed by a few inches, but that’s tennis: inches are what it’s a game of. Dimitrov took the next three points, and the set, and Baghdatis checked out. That third set looked exactly like hard work, and he looked exactly like someone who doesn’t go in for that sort of thing.

Much has been made of Baghdatis’ fitness – remember that training video the ATP inflicted on us, showcasing the sit-up regime he submitted to in the off-season? – but I’m not convinced his body is what is holding him back. He was fit enough against Federer in Indian Wells last year, and against Rafael Nadal in Cincinnati. What was missing today was the belief that once the first batch of opportunities went begging, that creating another batch was worth the effort. Blowing matchpoints is a crying shame, but it’s just one of those things, and something that besets everyone from time to time. His third set – and he was down 1/5 – was a far more serious matter, for it demonstrated a perfect willingness to lose. It’s the kind of behaviour that will lose him fans, who are willing to put up with a lot, but not seeing their man give up.

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