Rain washes away tensions at Open - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Rain washes away tensions at Open

By Paul Mulvey 20/01/2008 05:39:55 AM Comments (0)

Forget ethnic tension, sleep deprivation and rain were the most troubling issues for the crowd at the Australian Open.

Fears of trouble boiling over at Melbourne Park after a newspaper this week unearthed a year-old video of Marcos Baghdatis calling for Turks to leave his native Cyprus proved unfounded.

Outraged members of Melbourne's Turkish-Cypriot community had called for the world No.16 to apologise for his video comments and be expelled from the tournament.

But, despite fears of a flare-up, the biggest concern for Baghdatis' legions of Greek fans at Melbourne Park was waiting until 11.47pm Saturday night for his third round match against Australian Lleyton Hewitt to finally get on court.

Hewitt ultimately prevailed 4-6 7-5 7-5 6-7 (4-7) 6-3 in a gripping match lasting four hours and 45 minutes.

For the vast majority of fans who did not have tickets for Rod Laver Arena, if the hour didn't send them home, the rain did.

A handful were scattered around the indoor arena and only a dozen or so were left huddling under umbrellas watching the big screen in Melbourne Park's Garden Square in the first few hours of Sunday morning, with no trouble in sight.

A couple of hours earlier, however, Garden Square was a thriving mass of ethnic harmony as several hundred of Baghdatis' Greek supporters joined their Serbian "brothers" in a sporting show of unity.

Galvanised by a week of turmoil in which Hellas Fan Club (HFC) members were doused in capsicum spray, 10 were banned from the tournament and three were arrested after a clash with police, followed by the Baghdatis video controversy, the Greek supporters turned out in force.

But they were made to wait by Serbia's Janko Tipsarevic who held up the schedule by taking top seed Roger Federer to five sets in four and a half hours.

During the wait they watched Tipsarevic's marathon match on the big screen, arm in arm with the Serbian supporters, chanting for the world No.49, while the Serbs responded with chants for Baghdatis.

"We're brother countries, we've got to stick together," said Baghdatis fan, Alex from Narre Warren.

Alex said the negative events of this week had brought out more supporters for Baghdatis.

"I think more will be here for Marcos. We're here and we're not going anywhere," he said.

"The Greeks are always going to support, regardless."

Unless it's after midnight and raining.

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