The man of the moment in world sports is Marcos Baghdatis, the Cypriot who has taken the tennis world by storm. Ranked 54th in the world, he has stormed through the Australian Open defeating the 17th (Radek Stepanek), seventh (Ivan Ljubicic), fourth (David Nalbandian) and second (Andy Roddick) seeds on his way to the men's singles final, where he meets world No. 1 Roger Federer today.
One person who knows Baghdatis better than most is Israeli tennis player, Dudi Sela.
"I have known Marcos for the last seven years," Sela told The Jerusalem Post from Croatia, where he is hoping to qualify for this week's PBZ Zagreb indoors. "We went to the same tennis academy in France together."
Earlier this week, when reporters in Melbourne asked the happy-go-lucky Baghdatis last week who his closest friend on tour was, he nominated Sela.
"I have been in his house and he has been in mine. We are still regularly in touch and I sent him an SMS a few days ago to let him know I was thinking about him to which he replied. Unfortunately I haven't been able to see many of his matches except for the Roddick one."
The two tennis prodigies know each other well both on and off the court.
"We spent hours and hours on the court together playing with and against each other although he didn't beat me until he was 18."
For Sela, Baghdatis's success isn't much of a surprise. "It isn't but then again I guess it is. He has the talent to go all the way to the final if not win it, but had you told me before the tournament that he would have made it as far as he has I would have been surprised. He is playing well and is capable of beating anyone including Federer. I think Marco can win and win in four sets with him dropping the second."
For Sela the Australian Open wasn't as memorable. "I had a good draw in the qualifiers and in the first round had I made it that far, but it was a windy and I was very disappointed in the way things transpired losing in the second qualifying round."
Since then Sela has been to England, where he lost in the first round at the LTA Wrexham Challenger. On Saturday, Sela defeated Konstantin Don Gruber of Austria 6-1, 6-3. He meets Serbian Darko Madjarovski Sunday in the second of three qualifying rounds at the $380,000 event.
Sela says it does feel a bit strange that his good friend is in a Grand Slam final while he is slogging it away in qualifiers. "I hope my time will come as well. But as for Marcos, he works very hard and is a great player. He deserves the success he is getting."
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