It's Marcos Baghdatis vs Stanislas Wawrinka
Marcos Baghdatis kisses the court after rallying to beat Spain's Feliciano Lopez in the men's singles semifinals in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Friday.
Dubai - Cypriot beats Lopez; Stanislas through as Kyrgios concedes tie
"I am feeling good here in Dubai. I always play well here, you know. I played semis here in 2010. So I am hoping to get a better run than the last time I played here," Marcos Baghdatis told Khaleej Times after he entered the quarterfinals of the Dubai Tennis Championships on Wednesday.
Well, on a beautiful Friday evening at the Dubai Tennis Stadium, the flamboyant 30-year-old shot-maker achieved his finest Dubai run ever, booking his final with a stunning 3-6 7-6 6-1 win over Spain's Feliciano Lopez in the second semifinal of the Dubai Tennis Championships.
Stanislas Wawrinka was always in command before Nick Kyrgios conceded his semifinal match due to back problem during the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Friday. - Photo by Shihab
The popular Cypriot staged a magnificent rally, drawing loud cheers from his supporters in the stands as he overcame the Spaniard to set up a mouth-watering final showdown with two-time Grand Slam winner Stanislas Wawrinka. Earlier, the Swiss was leading 6-4 3-0 in his semifinal when his opponent Nick Kyrgios retired due to a back problem.
On Saturday in the final, the French Open champion can bank on the support of the considerable number of Swiss fans that regularly throng the stadium.
But those who saw Baghdatis' highly entertaining encounter with Lopez on Friday evening knew that it would not be the world number four, but the world number 57 that would have the neutrals rooting for him passionately.
The art of engaging the crowd into his game has always been his strength and it once again came to the fore as Baghdatis fought back against an opponent who was serve-and-volleying for fun on a fast Dubai court.
In a topsy-turvy battle against a fearless Spaniard, Baghdatis perhaps needed a bit of lift from his adoring fans.
And he got plenty of that on Friday. "If the crowd hadn't backed me the way they did today, I probably could not have stopped Feliciano today," Baghdatis later admitted.
"They were great. There were a lot of Cypriots, Lebanese here in the stadium. It's always so nice to play in Dubai. I am just so happy to be in the finals," said Baghdatis who was born to a Lebanese father and a Greek Cypriot mother.
But if crowd support alone could get you titles, Baghdatis would have won a handful of Grand Slams by now. You need to bring your game too to the arena. And Baghdatis certainly did that in style.
After having struggled to cope with Lopez's aggressive style in the first set on Friday, Baghdatis played the kind of tennis that once took him to the final of the Australian Open and the semifinals of Wimbledon.
"Yes, it's amazing. I said throughout the week that it's been a long road for me in the last three, four years. It's all about fighting, getting back to where I want to be. Last year I set some goals to be top 50 with my team. I achieved that.
"Now, you know, I'm moving forward. And yeah, I'm happy I'm back on the court here and winning, you know. It's a nice feeling!" You know what it meant to be in the final of a tournament as prestigious as the Dubai Tennis Championships when Baghdatis went down on his knees and kissed the court amid deafening cheers.
Now the Limassol-based player knows he will have to play out of his skin against Wawrinka, a player he has never beaten before.
"Yeah, he's an unbelievable player. I think he has a better percentage of winning tomorrow," Baghdatis admitted.
"He has been so consistent in last two years. He's having his best years of his life. Winning two Grand Slams, that's amazing. I think he's a guy who deserves it."
While Baghdatis thrilled the fans with his band of exciting tennis, Kyrgios' retirement from the first semis definitely dampened the spirits of those who wanted to witness a contest between the French Open champion and a player touted as the future world number one. Kyrgios later revealed that he was even struggling to serve in the match.
"The back problem has been bothering me in the last couple of days, to be honest. It was bothering me yesterday when I played Tomas (Berdych), as well," Kyrgios said.
"I had a bit of a hip injury at the start of Marseilles. That was still sort of bothering me a little bit. I was sort of struggling with a couple of niggles.
"So I don't really know how I broke back (in the first set), to be honest. You know, I was struggling. I just put a couple balls in and he made a couple of errors.
"So, you know, I was never going to be able to really make too much of an impact in the match with the way I was serving."