New season, same old story for Baghdatis in Auckland

first_imgBy Nemanja BjedovMarcos Baghdatis lost to unheralded American lucky loser Steve Johnson 5-7, 7-6(3), 4-6 in the opening round of the Heineken Open in Auckland in a match that was originally scheduled for Tuesday evening local time, but was postponed due to rain and played on Wednesday morning.Baghdatis had a big opportunity to close out the first set when he broke for the first time to lead 5-4, but he stumbled instead and lost three consecutive games to lose the first set 7-5.He was then on the brink of elimination in the second set, but he fought hard to force a tie-break before prevailing 7-3.In the decider, Johnson scored the crucial break to take a 5-4 lead and then his big serve held firm to win the match.World No. 160 Johnson fired 13 aces and broke serve three times to claim victory in just over two hours in what was the first meeting between the two players.The American, who made the main draw despite losing to compatriot Bradley Klahn in qualifications, then went on to upset a lethargic fourth seed Kevin Anderson of South Africa 7-5, 6-4 in the last match of the day session.“To beat those two guys on the same day is definitely pretty special and I am definitely going to remember this one for a while,” said Johnson who reached an ATP-level quarter-final only for the second time in his career.This is a 15th first round exit for the 28-year-old Cypriot since February last year, who after accepting a wild card for the Auckland event, lost the 90 ranking points he earned last season for reaching the semi-finals in Brisbane.As a result, Baghdatis recorded a 22-place drop from 87th in the rankings at the beginning of the year to his current 109th place, which is his worst ranking since August 2009.Baghdatis will now have to focus on the first Grand Slam of the season – the Australian Open which begins on Monday in Melbourne.The Limassol native, who is nowadays more famous for his racket-busting meltdown at last year’s event, reached the third round in Melbourne last season and he needs to at least repeat the same this time out or he will face another drop down the rankings.last_img

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