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Hero's welcome for Baghdatis in Cyprus

"It was a dream for me to play in a Grand Slam final," the 20-year-old said. "I know I didn't win but I believe I will have the chance if I work hard."

india Updated: Feb 05, 2006 15:15 IST

Cypriot tennis player Marcos Baghdatis returned home to find hundreds of people crowded to see him at Larnaca's airport following his surprise run at the Australian Open.

"I am very touched. I am very happy," Baghdatis said as he emerged from a bus that carried him from the aircraft on Saturday.

His mother Androulla then hugged him while the crowd cheered.

Baghdatis, ranked 54th before the Australian Open, reached his first Grand Slam final in Melbourne before losing to top-seeded Roger Federer 5-7, 7-5, 6-0, 6-2. The Cypriot is now ranked 27th.

Baghdatis -- the first Cypriot to play in a Grand Slam final -- thanked his parents and the Cypriot people for their support throughout the tournament.

"It was a dream for me to play in a Grand Slam final," the 20-year-old said. "I know I didn't win but I believe I will have the chance if I work hard."

Education Minister Pefkios Georgiades said Cyprus was grateful to Baghdatis, who is the tiny island's "best ambassador in the world."

In Limassol, his hometown, thousands gathered outside the town hall to greet Baghdatis, who was awarded the city's medal.

The port city's council has said it will name a street after him and establish a Marcos Baghdatis prize for athletes who excel.

First Published: Feb 05, 2006 15:15 IST