It was in 2006 when Marcos Baghdatis put Cyprus on the world tennis map by reaching the Australian Open final.
As an unseeded player, Baghdatis went on a giant-killing spree in Melbourne where even Andy Roddick became a victim of his dream run.
Nobody gave him a chance, though, against the seemingly invincible Roger Federer in the final.
But Baghdatis put up a huge fight before going down in four sets against the Swiss maestro.
A crowd favourite, Baghdatis, 37, didn't quite reach the highs due to a string of injuries.
A former runner-up at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, Baghdatis will return to Dubai for the first time since his retirement, to play the Legends Tennis Cup in November.
During a freewheeling chat with Khaleej Times, Baghdatis, the biggest sporting icon in Cyprus, said he had no regrets that he was born in the same era as Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic who won 64 of the last 77 Grand Slams.
Q. You were always a crowd favourite at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. You played an amazing final here in 2017 against Stan Wawrinka. So what memories do you have every time you think of Dubai, especially now as you will be back here as a player for the first time since your retirement, to play the Legends Team Cup?
I have the same memories, the city, the people here love sports and they are very friendly. I always had great memories here. I always felt whenever I stepped onto the court, I liked the atmosphere. Being on the court with a full stadium, people love tennis here, they could come and watch. The night matches in Dubai were amazing. Amazing atmosphere and amazing nights. It would be great to be back here on the court for the Legends Tennis Cup. I cannot wait. I am very excited.
Q. The tennis-loving people know that you were one of the world's top players who reached the Australian Open final in 2006. But not many people know how big you are in Cyprus. You are a national icon in your country. How does it feel when you look back at your journey, emerging from a small Mediterranean island nation? You probably have inspired so many young kids to take up tennis in Cyprus?
Yes, tennis-wise I achieved what I achieved. But for me the most important and the most proud thing for me is that I have been able to inspire young kids, I probably inspired even the adults to pick up a racquet. I heard a lot of people (in Cyprus) telling me that 'since you reached the Australian Open final, I believe I can do that too'. I made people believe that they can also do it from a small country. For me to hear those messages from people, it's the most important thing in life because you know you gave so much to the people. I think having belief and happiness is the most important thing as a person. When you believe in something, I think you can achieve it.
Q. Your greatest moment came in 2006 when you reached the Australian Open final. You lost to Roger Federer in four sets. You had many great battles with him. Now he has joined you in the retirement club. What can you tell us about Roger Federer the person that we don't know?
He's very emotional, I think everybody knows that. I mean there is nothing I can tell you that you don't know. He is an open book. The person you see on the court, he was the same off the court. He was a class act, generous, amazing, a great person. He was also very respectful. He had an amazing career, he won so much. But it's not just what he won, the records that he broke, it's the person that he is. I competed against him, I fought against him, but watching him retire on Friday was the saddest moment of life. Me and my wife (Karolina Sprem), who was a tennis player too, both of us were not well after watching that. It was like something had left our life. For us when you say tennis, it's Roger, it's Rafa. I lived those moments with them, I played against them. He had an amazing career, he left a legacy behind that no other player in the past did.
Q. Will we ever see three players dominate the sport like Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic did for so many years? Is it possible? Tennis hadn't seen three players share 60 odd Grand Slams at the same time in the past...
Of course, it's possible, but it will be very difficult. I say it's possible because nothing is impossible in life (laughs). But the chances are very small. These three guys, I mean, it's ridiculous. They won 63 of the last 77 Grand Slams. That's a joke. You know, some people tell me that I played in the wrong era, but I say, no man, I played in the best era'. That's what these three guys did. It's the best era. I think tennis is crying, dying a bit for people like Roger and Rafa, I honestly hope for our sport that people, the younger generation will compete at a high level and we will see two, three guys that will compete. But to do what those three guys did, it's going to be very difficult.
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