Originally created 05/10/04

Moya, a craftsman on clay, wins Italian Open



ROME -- Carlos Moya began the year aiming for a top-eight finish. After winning the Italian Open and reaching a No. 2 ranking, he might have to rethink his goals.

Moya showed his clay-court mastery in Sunday's final against David Nalbandian - a commanding 6-3, 6-3, 6-1 victory highlighted by a dazzling between-the-legs shot. The Spaniard's play was reminiscent of 1998 when he won the French Open.

Shortly after that Roland Garros victory, Moya rose to No. 1 for two weeks in 1999. Now, more than five years later, he's approaching the top again. Moving from fifth to second in the ATP Champions Race, he trails only Roger Federer.

"Maybe I have to change a little bit my goals," the Spaniard said. "The beginning of the year, it was to be in the Masters Cup and win Davis Cup.

"Davis Cup is still my first choice. Then I want to make sure that I'm going to play the Masters. If I am there, I'm going to try to finish the year as high as I can."

Moya won his first title in Rome in nine appearances and passed Andy Roddick for the most wins on tour this year - 33. It also set him up as a prime contender for the French Open, which starts May 24.

"Now I'm very confident, I'm playing well," Moya said. "But in two-three weeks everything can change. Now I want to enjoy this week, enjoy this title, and then I have time to think about that."

Nalbandian, the 2002 Wimbledon runner-up, beat Albert Costa in Saturday's semifinal and appeared overwhelmed and tired against Moya.

"He played an unbelievable match," Nalbandian said. "He served very good and his forehand was incredible. I didn't serve good. Maybe I was tired from the long match yesterday. I didn't have much today."

Moya, seeded sixth, set the tone by breaking serve to go up 3-1 in the first set. Nalbandian had a chance to get back in the opening set with a break point at 3-5, but Moya responded with a powerful serve and approach to catch the fifth-seeded Argentine off balance.

Moya got two early breaks, gave one up and then broke again to close the second set. At 4-0 in the final set, Moya hit the ball through his legs on a short hop at the service line, drawing a roar from the crowd and leaving Nalbandian with a stunned look.

"You don't plan a shot like that," Moya said. "The ball was coming and I didn't know what to do. It worked very well, it was a great shot. When you're winning and you're confident, these shots usually go in."

Nalbandian also had a shot through his legs after racing down a lob in the first set. But Moya was waiting at the net and replied with a drop-shot winner.

Nalbandian is a versatile player. Besides his strong showing on grass at Wimbledon two years ago, the 22-year-old Argentine reached the U.S. Open semifinals on hard courts last year. In Rome, he showed what he can do on clay.

"He is very talented," Moya said. "He is going to be an even better player in the future because he is young and can play well everywhere."