Friday, August 09, 2002

Moya making most of comeback

Injuries knocked him from No.1, but he says he's better than ever

By Neil Schmidt,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Carlos Moya returns a shot in his 6-4, 6-3 win over Michael Chang.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
| ZOOM |
        MASON — Carlos Moya is ranked 17th in the world. Yet he is playing better, he says — and appreciating tennis more — than when he was No.1.

        He reached the sport's summit in March 1999 and was the first Spaniard to reach No.1 since the ATP rankings began in 1973. But by year's end he was suffering from a stress fracture in his back and was temporarily out of tennis.

        “I was lucky I was still young when it happened,” said Moya, 25.

        Moya was off for six months, and he says his back wasn't ready when he returned. He struggled with inconsistent results for 18 months and was stuck at No.32 six months ago. But he is 41-12 since, and his 6-4, 6-3 victory Thursday over Michael Chang makes him 17-2 in the past month.

        Moya, seeded 16th in the Western & Southern Financial Masters, will play Rainer Schuettler today in the quarterfinals.

        “I'm playing better now than when I won the French Open (in 1998), better than when I was No.1,” Moya said. “I'm fit again, and when I'm healthy, I can be a dangerous player.”

        His comeback in 2000 was emotional. Moya won the first event he entered, the Estoril Open in Portugal, and wept on the court.

        He has climbed steadily in the rankings. In the yearlong Champions Race, he stands 13th and should reach the top 10 if he wins today. The top eight qualify for the Tennis Masters Cup in November.

        “I'm enjoying proving I can be back in the top 10,” Moya said. “I'd like to get back to No.1, but people don't know how tough it is.

        “And if I never make it (back), I've been No.1 and I'm proud of that. In 50 years, they'll be able to look in a book and see I was No.1.”

        Moya is a clay-court expert, having won nine of his 10 career titles on that surface — including three events this year. At 34-7 on clay this season, he leads the tour in clay-court victories. On hard courts, he reached the 1997 Australian Open final and the '98 U.S. Open semifinals.

        “My tennis is there,” he said. “Now I just need a big title.”

   ATP Masters Results & Schedule


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