Albert Costa Casals

Born: June 25, 1975 in Lleida (Catalonia)
Height: 1.80 m
Plays: Right-handed
Spanish tennis witnessed the emergence of five promising young players in the mid-’90s: Alberto Berasategui, Àlex Corretja, Félix Mantilla, Albert(o) Costa (removed the “o” from his name in 1997), and Carlos Moyá. Initially, my expectations leaned towards Costa’s potential, but witnessing Moyá’s performance at the Aussie Open ’97 changed my perspective. Two years later, he claimed the World No. 1 spot, and in hindsight, it’s evident that he had the most stellar career among them. Costa (unrelated to Carlos Costa) appeared poised for multiple French Open triumphs, my belief stemmed from his three 5-set battles against Thomas Muster, who dominated clay in the years 1995-96. Despite almost toppling Muster at French Open ’95 in four sets (after defeating Jim Courier in Round 4), clinching the Kitzbühel final in the same year, and engaging in a tight 5-setter at Monte Carlo ’96 (leading 2-1 in sets), Costa surprisingly failed to secure even one quarterfinal berth in Paris during the second half of the ’90s: early losses in ’96 and ’97 to Francisco Clavet and Mark Woodforde were shocking, yet the ’98 loss Marcelo Ríos, and ’99 to the same player, might be considered part of an unlucky draw.
Costa’s clay court prowess dwindled in the early 2000s. Although he wasn’t a favorite in the first three editions of the new millennium, there were missed opportunities. In 2000, he could have reached the semifinals but lost to Franco Squillari, despite three previous victories over him. The dramatic 5-set loss to Julien Boutter in 2001 marked another unfortunate early exit. However, in 2002, Costa finally fulfilled his Parisian destiny with first wrinkles on his face. Looking back, his journey to the title stands out. While his initial victories against Richard Gasquet and Nikolay Davydenko came against inexperienced players, many years later those wins are valuable given the level they reached… In the fourth round, Costa ousted the triple champion of the event, Gustavo Kuerten, playing arguably tennis of his life. His quarterfinal against Guillermo Cañas was a nail-biting encounter; trailing *2:4 (15/40) in the 4th set, Costa managed a spectacular comeback, surviving a gruelling four-hour clash. Another opponent, Corretja, who consistently matched Costa’s level, and had already reached the French Open final twice, was a slight favourite. Costa survived that ugly encounter of heavy top-spin exchanges in four sets though. The final against the semi-finalist of two previous editions, Juan Carlos Ferrero, took a good turn of events for Costa, with a short rain interruption altering the match’s dynamics. Capitalizing on Ferrero’s disrupted momentum, Costa secured his victory, concluding at 6-1, 6-0, 4-6, 6-3, a testament to his resilience and perseverance. The next year, Ferrero avenged that bitter defeat on the same court in the semifinal; Costa set a distinctive record during this tournament, requiring the highest total time (18 hours 32 minutes; 3:42h on average per match!) to reach a Grand Slam semifinal.
Costa’s struggles on indoor courts were puzzling, losing 18 consecutive matches (14 carpet, 4 hard) under the roof between ’95 and ’99 before triumphing against Hicham Arazi in Stuttgart. This surprising statistic contrasts with his decent volley technique, excellent footwork as well as his ground-strokes, which were deprived of extensive swings, disrupting the play on faster surfaces. Although known primarily as a clay-courter, Costa displayed versatility earlier in his career, reaching the final on fast hard courts in Dubai ’96, defeating Michael Chang on grass in Wimbledon ’96’s opening round and playing on equal terms against Pete Sampras in the Australian Open ’97 quarterfinal. Despite these results, he, like Mantilla, is remembered mainly for his clay court prowess, unlike their Catalan friend Corretja, who excelled on both clay and hard surfaces from ’98 onwards, having very similar game-style (Costa and Corretja teamed up, got a bronze medal in doubles at the Olympics in Sydney ’00). Out of Costa’s 21 main-level finals, only one took place on a different surface than clay, the earlier mentioned event in the United Arab Emirates. His second most significant title, following Roland Garros ’02, was clinched in Hamburg ’98 under extraordinary circumstances: he rallied from a double break down in the deciding set during the first round while his semifinal and final opponents entered the court being unfit and subsequently retired. Trivia: he’s an author of one of the most astonishing comebacks in the Open Era defeating Sjeng Schalken 6-7, 7-6, 6-3 in Barcelona ’96  – Costa found himself at *0:5 in the 2nd set, and withstood nine match points.
Career record: 385–273 [ 275 events ]
Career titles: 12
Highest ranking: No. 6
Best GS results:
Australian Open (quarterfinal 1997)
Roland Garros (champion 2002; semifinal 2003; quarterfinal 1995 & 2000)
Davis Cup champion 2000
World Team Cup champion 1997
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