Carlos Moya is a part of the current coaching setup of Rafael Nadal and in a year when the latter won his 20th Grand Slam title after pocketing his 13th tournament win at the French Open, it’s worth looking at how Moya himself went all those years ago in 1998.
Clay had always been Moya’s favourite surface with the Spaniard, who went on to contest in 28 clay finals on the tour.
Even as a youngster he had shown propensity for that surface, having won his first ATP title on it – a tournament victory at Buenos Aires at 19 – before ending a 38-match winning streak of Thomas Muster on the same surface about a year later.
Interestingly, Moya’s first breakout performance in a Grand Slam didn’t come at the French Open. Instead it was at the 1997 Australian Open, where the 20-year-old made it to the final before going down in straight sets to Pete Sampras.
A string of poor results at the Grand Slam level followed after that with Moya unable to get past the second round of any of the next four majors. A semifinal at the Monte-Carlo Masters that season, however, ensured not all was lost.
The 1998 Monte-Carlo Masters Win
In the lead-up to the 1998 French Open, Moya hadn’t had too many results going in his favour. His last title victory had come in August 1997 on hard court, which had been preceded by five successive defeats in the finals of ATP tournaments.
Seeded 14th at the Monte-Carlo Open, Moya wasn’t one of the favourites by any stretch. Interestingly, he was drawn to face Thomas Muster in a tricky opening round encounter but Moya crushed him 6-0, 6-3 before defeating Hicham Arazi, Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Alex Corretja in his next three matches in straight sets to reach the semifinal.
Moya, who would face Corretja in the final of the French Open again the following month, was stretched Richard Krajicek in the semifinal before he crushed Cedric Pioline in a best-of-five final to lift the title.
And while Moya didn’t quite light the stadiums up at the Rome and Madrid Masters which followed, he had tasted blood.
- Should Tennis Players Wear Different Shoes on Different Surfaces?
- Remembering Novak Djokovic’s Maiden Grand Slam Win
Moya’s Win at the 1998 French Open
Again, Moya wasn’t quite a odds on favourite, starting out the tournament as the 12th seed with the likes of Marcelo Rios, Gustavo Kuerten, Kafelnikov, Michael Chang and not to mention Pete Sampras himself being some of those who were in the running for the title.
What went in Moya’s favour to begin with was his draw. He faced a wild-card in the first round and followed that up with three qualifiers leading up to the fourth round and it was only in the quarterfinals did the Spaniard have something to ponder.
Because it was in that last eight round, he faced the third seeded Chilean Rios, who had himself been a former world number one and earlier finished runnerup at the Australian Open that year. Moya tamed Rios in four sets to set up a meeting with fellow Spaniard Felix Mantilla.
With Mantilla having sent Muster out in the quarterfinal, Moya’s chances of winning his first ever Grand Slam seemed to be looking rather bright. An early loss of the set against Mantilla, who was the 15th seed, didn’t seem to bother Moya too much as he ran off with the next three to clinch a place in the final.
And in that title-decider, he had good friend Corretja for company, a player he had earlier defeated en route the title in Monte-Carlo.
Things turned out to be no different for Moya this time around as well, as he raced off to a 6-3, 7-5, 6-3 victory to lift the Coupe des Mousquetaires, which was handed over to him by footballing legend Pele. Pele had been in France for the 1998 FIFA World Cup.
Rather curiously, it turned out to be the last Grand Slam final of Moya’s career. He made it to one other semifinal – that year itself at the US Open – and five other quarterfinals but never beyond.
Watch the highlights of the 1998 French Open final in which Moya defeated Alex Corretja to lift his only Grand Slam title:
Moya Credits Racquet Change…
According to an interview with Tennis365.com, Moya creditted his title win to one very important reason and that was the change of his racquet. Earlier known to use a different racquet, Moya tried out the Babolat Pure Drive for the first time, and he seemed to be smitten.
He first practiced with it in 1996, played a tournament with it late that year at the Paris Masters, before going full-fledged with the Babolat Pure Drive at the 1997 Australian Open.
And what happened after that? Moya reached the final!
Describing his decision to switch over to Babolat, Moya said:
“At the time, I was looking for the racket to have a lot of power. Yes I wanted control, but I needed power to make a break in the game and that is what I felt with the Pure Drive. I didn’t find this with any other racket and that’s why I have stuck with it.”