Carlos Moyá Llompart
Born: August 27, 1976 in Palma (Majorca)
Height: 1.88 m
Plays: Right-handed (two-handed backhand)
Moyá left the tennis circuit in the shadows, which is unfortunate because he considerably contributed to modern tennis. I wish he hadn’t announced his retirement at the end of 2008 or followed the path of other notable players like Stefan Edberg, Marat Safin, or Patrick Rafter, who opted for a farewell season. In the last two years of his career, during the struggle with a foot injury, Moyá was practically non-existent at the main level, with only ten tournaments and four wins.
Considering that he had already won a major title and reached a final of the other at the age of twenty-one, one might say he finished his career as an underachiever. On the other hand, who could have expected in 1996 that this 20-year-old long-haired clay-courter would become the No. 1 player in the world one day in March ’99? Above all, he exemplified a player who maximally adjusted his game-style to his abilities. Sometimes it was almost ridiculous how he played forehands from the backhand side, but somehow it worked very efficiently thanks to his brilliant footwork.
While his forehand alone wouldn’t have achieved so much, he was a big server at times and a very clever volleyer. He used his net skills on faster surfaces wisely, in some sense beginning a new era in Spanish tennis. Before Moyá, every Spanish player was synonymous with a clay-court specialist. He achieved a lot on hardcourts and indoors but never adjusted his game to grass. I think it’s more a matter of his return games because he simply didn’t have time to prepare himself properly for powerful forehand shots from his left side.
The alleged clay-courter Moyá built his name by defeating Boris Becker twice within a few months on two different surfaces. First, he did it in Paris-Bercy ’96 (2R, carpet!), then in the Australian Open ’97 first round. The second victory over the defending champion on Australia’s main tennis arena had a significant impact on the rest of Moya’s career. “Playing against him gives me extra motivation,” admitted Moyá. “Becker is one of the greatest players in tennis history.” Suddenly, he became a fan favorite, especially for teenagers, with his oversized Nike clothes, headband, and Babolat racquet – he definitely helped popularize the brand, which had been primarily known for strings before.
Expectations were high since the second round, and he rose to the challenge, advancing to the final where he received a lesson from Pete Sampras. There was a big gap between them, as Moyá admitted, but already ten months later, he defeated the American in Hannover (Masters). When Moyá advanced to No. 1 in March 1999, he surpassed Sampras on the top spot. He held the top spot for two weeks (only Rafter has had a shorter reign among the 28 ATP ranking leaders of the Open Era). “I always believed that winning a Grand Slam was the best thing that could happen to you. But this [being No. 1] surpassed that. There were a lot of players that wanted to dethrone Sampras. There was pressure. And for me, it was the only chance.”
Trivia: Moyá is a record-holder for the most consecutive wins when a deciding third set tie-break was required. He won 17 matches of this kind in a row in the years 2002-08 before losing 7-6, 6-7, 6-7 to his protégé Rafael Nadal, in what was then a record-tying three-setter in terms of duration. For the past few years, Moyá has been Nadal’s coach. Nadal on his fellow Mallorcan said: “Moyá was a pioneer in this sport. He deserves everybody’s recognition. He has done very significant things in the world of tennis. He was No. 1 in the world, a difficult thing to achieve, won the biggest tournaments… He has contributed greatly to Spanish sport.” Indeed, Moyá secured the Davis Cup trophy for the country from the Iberian peninsula in 2004.
Career record: 575–319 [ 326 events ]
Career titles: 20
Highest ranking: No. 1
Best GS results:
Australian Open (runner-up 1997; quarterfinal 2001)
Roland Garros (champion 1998; quarterfinal 2003-04 & 07)
US Open (semifinal 1998; quarterfinal 2007)
Davis Cup champion 2004
Masters runner-up 1998
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