Baghdatis hit Open back into shape

NOW that the 2006 Australian Open is in the books, the organisers must be thrilled to pieces.

At one stage the men's side of the tournament was looking disastrous. Marat Safin (the defending champion) was out, world No.2 Rafael Nedal and the ever-popular Andre Agassi were also non-starters.

If that wasn't enough, tournament heavyweights Lleyton Hewitt and Andy Roddick were sent packing in the first week.

Up to the plate stepped Marcos Baghdatis and all of a sudden the Melbourne Park crowds had themselves a new hero.

Baghdatis was a revelation for the tournament, the crowds, television audiences and every person who happened to bump into him during his stay.

At the end of the day he had the final page ripped out of his fairytale book by the great Roger Federer.

Federer was put under enormous pressure in the final; he trailed early and fought hard to regain the ascendancy and the Australian Open title which he first claimed in 2004.

This was his seventh grand slam victory in as many finals, like Pete Sampras he is clearly a big stage performer.

Regardless of what clowns like Tommy Haas say, Roger Federer is a great player.

While Federer's dominance does make the men's game look uncompetitive, the same cannot be said about the women.

Surely this is the strongest that women's tennis has been for a very long time?

When a tournament can field starters such as Sharapova, Kusnetsova, Williams, Williams, Davenport, Pierce, Henin-Hardenne and Clijsters, you have a seriously good lineup as they can all win and have won major events.

When that line up also in- cludes Amelie Mausesmo, who finally has the monkey off her back, the returning Martina Hingis and rising talents such as Ana Ivanovic, Nadia Petrova and our own gutsy Sam Stosur ? it's "game on''!

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