Baghdatis style will be all Greek to Federer PAT CASH PORING over the tennis history books, seeking some relevant connection between matches of a bygone era and modern-day confrontations, has never appealed to me. The entrancing although hugely unlikely prospect of Marcos Baghdatis beating Roger Federer today interests me far more than anything from yesteryear. So it should come as no surprise that I was nonplussed when somebody asked me who was the last male player to win a Grand Slam title with the reigning world No 1 as his final opponent. “Mate, I haven’t got a clue,” I responded. The answer? Pat Cash against Ivan Lendl at Wimbledon in 1987. To make things more curious, Lendl’s coach that day was the same Australian who will be sitting in Federer’s corner today, Tony Roche. We all know what to expect from Rochey and can make an educated guess as to how Federer will respond to the occasion, given his record of six wins from his previous six Grand Slam finals. The great unknown factor is how Baghdatis will react to biggest day of his career. General opinion insists he that can only benefit from almost three days of rest after beating David Nalbandian. I disagree. Fitness is clearly not a problem for the 20-year-old, but potential anxiety is another matter. Baghdatis has played with a wonderful freedom, feeling no pressure and revelling in the uncertainties he can spread in the minds of his opponents. What did he have to lose against Andy Roddick, Ivan Ljubicic and Nalbandian? The same could be said when he meets Federer, but it is a Grand Slam final, and that knowledge eats into the mind. Casting my mind back to Wimbledon all those years ago, I was riding the same sort of carefree emotional wave that Baghdatis is experiencing. I did not have to endure the marathons that have tested the resolve and stamina of the Cypriot, as I dropped only one set, but I overcame the potentially intimidating opposition of Mats Wilander and Jimmy Connors because I did not feel any pressure. Yet for the 48 hours between the semi-final and the final, my brain was working overtime. Sleep was much harder to come by, little domestic issues suddenly appeared to be huge distractions, and by the time I walked out on to Centre Court, it was not just adrenaline taking hold, it was a severe case of nerves. I was fortunate that Lendl had more demons running rampant in his mind. Most were connected with his obsession of winning Wimbledon and dispelling the doubts that grass turned a player otherwise feared as almost superhuman into somebody fallible. Federer has no comparable uncertainties on the surface at Melbourne. However, I have not been totally convinced by his play in his past few matches. We have all seen the black ankle strap that he insists is only precautionary after suffering the consequences of playing while injured in last November’s Masters Cup in Shanghai, but he does not appear to be moving as well as normal. This has manifested itself in some mistiming of shots. There is also a visible reluctance to attack the net. Baghdatis is exciting and plays extremely intelligently. He does not go for the outright winner on returns in the same way as Andre Agassi, but stands about 8ft behind the line for the first serve, advancing a little on the second. And he is happy to get involved in extended rallies because his great strengths are his speed around the court and the power he can generate. He has great wheels. You can mention him in the same breath as Lleyton Hewitt for fleet-footedness and he can impart as much force as Marat Safin, who got the better of Federer here last year. Another factor will be the influence of the crowd. As a Melbourne boy, I am well aware of the sporting passion of the city’s Greek population. Baghdatis has managed to get his highly vocal cheer squad into every match, and their football-like chants got under the skins of Roddick and Ljubicic. Federer does not revel in rowdy atmospheres and has a history of being unhinged in this stadium; his defeat to Hewitt in the 2003 Davis Cup semi-final after leading by two sets is still remembered as one of the great victories for not only an Aussie player but also the intimidatory powers of an Aussie sporting crowd. The retsina is already on ice for Baghdatis fans, but common sense tells me it will be drunk in commiseration rather than celebration.