Baghdatis, Strycova win junior titlesPosted: Saturday January 25, 2003 10:40 PM
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) -- Marcos Baghdatis won the Australian Open boys' title Sunday with a 6-4, 6-4 win over sixth-seeded Florin Mergea of Romania and hopes the victory will raise the profile of tennis in his native Cyprus.
Defending Australian Open girls' champion Barbora Strycova made it back-to-back at Melbourne Park by defeating Ukranian Viktoria Kutuzova, 0-6, 6-2, 6-2.
"I really felt like the boss of the match out there," said Baghdatis, who ground down Mergea from the baseline. "I just played more solid and didn't make as many unforced errors."
Mergea hit 30 unforced errors and wasn't given any latitude to play his normal shot-making style of game.
Soccer is the most popular sport in Cyprus, but 17-year-old Baghdatis is confident his result in Melbourne will increase the numbers of people playing tennis in his homeland.
"My hope is that people will start to speak more about tennis and play more," Baghdatis said.
Now based at the Bob Brett tennis academy in Paris, Baghdatis is on track to emulate his two older brothers who have both played Davis Cup for Cyprus. The chance to play tennis in the 2004 Olympics in Athens is also strong motivation for Baghdatis given the large number of his compatriots expected to be in attendance.
Baghdatis is yet to decide if he'll play any more junior Grand Slams this year or make the transition to the professional ranks.
In a fluctuating match, Strycova overcame nerves, a right ankle injury and accurate baseline hitting from the ninth-seed.
"In the beginning I had no pain, but I just couldn't get my serve in and couldn't move properly," Strycova said.
Despite having won the tournament last year, Strycova still struggled mentally on the court.
"In the beginning I didn't believe in myself," Strycova said.
"She made a lot of mistakes today. I just kept the ball in the court."
The 16-year-old had an added incentive to claim victory -- making a bet with her dad that if she failed to win consecutive titles in Melbourne she would have to shave her head.
Strycova's next goal is to qualify for the French Open, but in the immediate future the Czech player will travel home for tests on her ankle to determine the extent of the injury.