When Carlos Moya, the man with the mighty forehand, once put aside Cedric Pioline’s challenge at the US$2.45-million Monte Carlo Open, the former Australian Open finalist became the fifth Spaniard to claim the prestigious trophy at the classy clay-court event.
Moya followed in the footsteps of compatriots Andrews Gimeno, Manuel Santana, Manuel Orantes, and Sergi Bruguera. He collected 370 computer points and jumped to #14 in tennis rankings.
A few weeks later, the Monte Carlo triumph was to act as a catalyst for the 21-year-old clay court specialist in Paris. The Mallorca-born lad with flowing hair proved that his earlier run of victories was no flash in the pan as he brushed aside all opposition, including the favorite Marcelo Rios in the quarter-final, to claim the French Open crown.
“For two weeks I’ll be king,” said Moya, obviously referring to the period before Wimbledon.
Never mind that. Â Whether he’d be king for two weeks or more, one fact was certain: a new kid had broken into the league of the elite and intended to staying there.
Moya had always been a strong contender, blessed with all the prerequisites and qualities to go into one getting into the Top 10.Â Ever since he came, saw and almost conquered Flinders Park, until Pete Sampras, with his skill and excellence, knocked his daylights out, Moya had been a force.
As an unknown, unseeded player, Moya’s tennis skills attracted attention. Â At 21, he had not yet realized his full potential. Â But, age was on his side.
Moya made his presence felt by demolishing Boris Becker during his dream-run at Melbourne. In a rousing battle of wits, he became an instant hit. He had his fans, what with his long mane and a spotlessly white headband, all revved up and goading him on for more.
It was also a novelty, the way he went about, with his tennis pyrotechnics. Moya lured the cameras into clicking him as often as Cindy Crawford’s Basic Face. Not only that. When Moya bamboozled the likes of Michael Change et al, his game reflected his own image, every time.
Moya was, doubtless, a rare player. What made him such a dangerous player was his pragmatic approach to the game, and an innate ability to almost finish the point, at every stage, from mid-court.Â He was quite adept at putting pressure on his opponents from that spot. He could also hit out with power, or slice hard, keeping the ball deep and low.
With his equally strong two-handed return of serve, Moya added more spice and aggression to his game plan without taking the risk of a one-handed essay. Besides, he took the ball on the rise and hit quite often into the open court for a winner. Agreed that Moya did not place winners with computerized regularity, but he gave his opponents much food for thought – of what may be, or may not be his ploy during any given time, or point.
More than his latent element of good ball sense, Moya never played his matches on an even emotional keel.Â He’s always fired up, and fought with intensity once the ball was in play. Yet, he was also relaxed.Â He conserved his energy too, quite capably, and prepared for the next point, without getting burnt-out.Â Most often than not, his backhand slice came in handy, and keept his opponents off balance.
Moya attacked with his second serve just as well. He kept his opponents guessing all the time. More than that, he never ever gave his more illustrious opponents any respite.
Moya kept the pace of his game, and used his compact swing with good effect.Â A more efficient, compact swing was the hallmark of a top-class player. Moya was one, A compact swing often allows one to react faster and adjust to the rapid pace, or change of pace, of the opponent’s game. If Moya’s second serve often put his opponent on the defensive, his shorter strokes helped him cope with the speed of the ball – more effectively.
What was most impressive about Moya was his mighty forehand.Â He did always take a big swing with his groundstrokes. Yes, he could still hurt his opponents in a rally. His forehand, by way of a sequence, was enormously lethal. He took the racquet back with its head well above the wrist – to gain momentum. Â He held the racquet with both hands. He had an open stance, where the right side of the body did most of the work. His center of gravity was always above his feet; his head barely moved throughout the stroke. Â More than anything else, he was in harmony with the ball, and his follow-through ‘drove’ out and towards his target.
– Photo, Courtesy: Â ULTIMA HORA