Marcos Baghdatis has returned to Cyprus to the sort of rapturous welcome fit for the most famous sportsman in the country's history. The 20-year-old's run to the Australian Open final captivated the island's population of 807,000, and in recent days his home village Paramytha has been inundated by hundreds of curious fans. Football may be the country's national sport, and Olympiakos striker Michalis Konstantinou their most celebrated player, but Baghdatis' Melbourne exploits have put everyone else in the shade. "You can't compare Marcos with anyone. He's way out on his own in terms of what he's achieved already," Soteris Charalambous, sports editor of the Cyprus Mail, told BBC Sport. Should he ever win a Grand Slam, Baghdatis will surely usurp halloumi cheese as Cyprus' most celebrated export. During his stay on his native island, the new hero will have a reception with president Tassos Papadopoulos, one of the thousands of new tennis fans he has inspired. Even after his defeat in Sunday's final, crowds gathered in Paramytha's main square to celebrate his achievement and yet more fans draped flags at the Aghios Nikolaos roundabout in Limassol - all to a cacophony of fireworks, gunfire, church bells and music. I hope people will understand that underneath it all is a 20-year-old still learning his trade Soteris Charalambous Cyprus Mail sports editor "The streets were literally deserted when he was playing," said Charalambous. "Everybody suddenly became a tennis fan. Every single home was fixed to the screens watching it. "It was a complete buzz. It would be the equivalent of Tim Henman making the Wimbledon final." And Charalambous believes Baghdatis' achievements will inspire his young countrymen and women to take up the game. "Football is the big sport in Cyprus and I think tennis still has a way to go to steal football's mantle," he said. "But Marcos has created a huge interest in tennis on the island. "I went to schools where they were showing his matches on big screens and they were talking about getting hold of racquets and organising lessons. "He's a new hero for these youngsters. Hopefully it'll lead to a growth in the participation of the game." But with success comes expectation and Baghdatis, at just 20, will be under pressure to live up to his Melbourne form. Charalambous says: "I've known him since he was young and he is a fairly grounded guy so I don't think it will go to his head. "He's a very dedicated athlete and he really believes he has the skills to be one of the best tennis players in the world. "The slightest slip or misplaced word can lead to another media circus of a negative kind, but I'm hoping that in Cyprus that won't happen. "I hope he'll be treated fairly, that people will understand that underneath it all is a 20-year-old young man still learning his trade."