Tuesday, August 5, 2003

Moya's tumultuous season set to roll into town

Spaniard will try to jump-start year and defend title in Mason tourney

By Dustin Dow
The Cincinnati Enquirer

In one week, Carlos Moya can only hope he gains control of what has been topsy-turvy summer.

Moya begins defense of his Western and Southern Financial Group Masters title next week in Mason, entering the tournament on the heels of a disastrous first-round upset in Poland at the Idea Prokom Open. That came two weeks after he lost in the second round of the Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart, Germany, which he referred to as his worst loss of the season at the time. Sandwiched in between those stumbles, Moya won the Croatia Open for the third straight time, giving him his third title of the season and 14th of his career.

So, if his up-and-down summer holds true, Moya could be on track for a good showing in Cincinnati. Despite his recent inconsistencies, Moya is in the midst of one of his best overall years on the ATP.

"It's always added pressure when you are the defending champion, no question," Moya said. "But I've had a good year, which takes some of the pressure off. If I was coming in like 30 or 40 in the Champions Race, that would be one thing, but I'll be (in the) top 10 whether I do well or not, so that takes some pressure off."

Moya currently is in sixth place in the Champions Race and No. 4 in the ATP entry rankings. On the strength of his best season ever in 2002, the 26-year-old Spaniard re-entered the Top 10 last season by capturing four ATP titles in six finals. His game at times now resembles that of a few years ago when he won the French Open in 1998 and reached the No. 1 spot in the rankings in 1999. Moya has won $913,085 this season with tournament titles in Buenos Aires, Barcelona and Croatia. He relished his first Barcelona victory in his home country, and attributed his resurgence to a more well-rounded game.

"I'd like to move my ranking up," Moya said. "I've said all year that I'm playing better at this stage in my career than when I was No. 1 in the world rankings. I have more variety, more power. I think that says a lot about the quality of the game today and the depth of men's tennis."

The depth Moya talks of is part of the reason he's been sent home early two of the last three tournaments. He was the top seed playing in his first match in Stuttgart when German Tomas Behrend ousted him 7-6 (5), 7-6(2).

"In Stuttgart, there were a few factors," Moya said. "It was one of those days, you just get really unlucky. I played terribly, and he played really well. I didn't really know his game at all, and I was just coming off a break of a few weeks."

Coming off the hard court tournament championship in Croatia, Moya drew the second seed in Poland and couldn't shake countryman Albert Portas, losing 7-6 (4), 6-7 (6), 7-5 in the opening round. He blamed it on a variety of factors including switching surfaces so quickly and the rains that softened the clay Polish court.

By playing in the Tennis Masters Canada in Montreal this week, where he is the fourth seed, Moya can readjust to hard courts before arriving in Cincinnati, now a highlight of the tour for him since he toppled No. 1 ranked Lleyton Hewitt in last year's final. In doing so, Moya became the first Spaniard to win in Cincinnati

"Having won a tournament like Cincinnati definitely makes it more special because you see the tournament a little differently," Moya said. "You have those good memories and you very much want to try and defend your title."


E-mail ddow@enquirer.com

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