Baghdatis Back With Renewed Sense Of Purpose
Cypriot credits wife, Karolina, with finding himself on court again
Marcos Baghdatis has seen his fair share of highs and lows on the ATP World Tour — from reaching a career-high of No. 8 in the Emirates ATP Rankings and playing the Australian Open final in 2006, to enduring a catalogue of injuries and dropping outside the Top 150 a couple of years ago.
But with the support of his wife, former WTA player Karolina Sprem, and his family and team, the ever-popular Cypriot is approaching his 14th year on tour with a renewed sense of optimism after rediscovering his love for the game. With clear goals for his remaining time on tour, Baghdatis is hoping for big things over the course of the next three years.
Speaking after his first-round win over fourth seed David Goffin on Tuesday at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam, Baghdatis told ATPWorldTour.com, “I got tired at one moment. I lost myself a bit, trying different things. That's what you can't do. Then injuries came, some health problems that were bothering me. The past four or five years have been a long road for me.
“Karolina was very important because she also played tennis. She also went through a career and she had some injuries herself. She helped me a lot first of all to have someone to listen to me, who has felt what I've been through. Having her around was like having an ex-tennis player, like Pat Cash, or a player like that. An important person in tennis. To have her around was very important and she helped me take some decisions towards what we are doing now. It's great.”
The Baghdatis family welcomed their second daughter, India, in the off-season and the Cypriot explained that having his own family at home has given him a greater sense of perspective when he steps onto the tennis court. It was that perspective and a sense of calm that ultimately made the difference in his close battle with Goffin, which saw him win a 41-shot rally on match point.
“It's tougher and tougher!” Baghdatis joked at living in a house with three girls. “It's the best thing that ever happened to me. Everyone's asking if we'll go for a third one and try for a boy! We don't know. We are happy to have two lovely children. They're healthy and everything is good. My wife is handling it well. She's healthy and I couldn't ask for me. For now, we're just enjoying the time.
“Whenever I get home it's even nicer for me because I get to spend more time with the older one, Zahara. I get to know her much more. Before it was bit tougher, she wanted mummy all the time. But now mummy's not so available, I'm more available, so it's always nice to spend some time with her and do things together.
“I think some pressure comes off [as a father]. Like for example today, I was playing against Goffin. If I lose, I go home tomorrow to my child. So you don't get too stressed during the match or before it. If I lose today, tomorrow I'm home to hug my daughter, which is one of the best things in the world. Really it takes a lot of pressure off you.”
Last season saw Baghdatis re-establish himself in and around the Top 50, highlighted by a run to the Atlanta final (l. to Isner). Despite frustrating spells out due to injury, it was his most consistent campaign for a long time, but the 30-year-old Baghdatis is hoping for even better this season and over the course of the next three years.
“I learned from it a lot,” said Baghdatis. “I'm looking forward to continuing the same way we did last year, because I think towards Wimbledon and after Wimbledon, I hit my peak and then I got injured again. I feel good, healthy and happy and just enjoying my time now.
“I have some long-term objectives that I would like to achieve before I retire. With my wife, my family and the new people in my team, we've put good goals. We managed to balance everything around my tennis, which is the most important thing for my career, to make me go out there and just play tennis and not think about anything else.
“Last year so many 30 and over guys won the tournaments. It's encouraging to see,” continued the Cypriot. “They're playing their best tennis and I think I am playing my best tennis. I think I can play even better and be more consistent. That's what we're working for. Now it's a matter of staying fit. I hope to play another year in the Top 50 and maybe make the step to Top 30, which is the goal.
“I think it will help me enormously for the next three years. That's where I will get more consistent playing matches at this level, like last week I played against Richard Gasquet, a Top 10 guy, against Tsonga in Australia and now against Goffin, a Top 20 guy. So for me it's very important to play this level very often this year and try to stay there, in the Top 30. Big things will come in the next three years.”