If cloning potential tennis champions becomes the rage, Carlos Moya genes will likely reign supreme.
Coaches would hanker for his powerful 6'3" physique and athleticism. Sports marketers would salivate over the swashbuckling Spaniard who produced headlines like "Moya's Ace in Glamor Race" en route to the Australian Open final. Women, we learned Down Under, love this heartthrob's handsome, chiselled face. Kids fancy his flashy outfits and long hair. The media, tired of stars either colorless or surly, have taken to this smiling, modest rising star who raises his arms to acknowledge his legion of fans. Traditionalists are enamored with Moya's sporting style and yen to play Davis Cup. And Bjorn Borg says No. 8-ranked Moya "has all the qualities to become a really great player."
Our dream man from Mallorca is also quite a jokester as he showed when he had this banter with "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno.
Leno: "I see women are going nuts over you. Are women following you around lately?"
Moya: "No, only girls."
Moya, a languid sex symbol sometimes compared to Antonio Banderas, admits that his sudden fame has changed his life, but insists it hasn't changed him.
Who is the real Carlos Moya? In this honest, sometimes funny interview, we find out that 20-year-old Moya cares more about substance (winning) than style (image) and has the maturity to handle whatever stardom throws at him.
Why were you so popular at the Australian Open?
I think it's because I beat Becker in the first round, and the people saw I was a fighter. And I had a different look from the others with my long hair with a headband and the way I dress. They liked it. That was a big key to my success. In the bad moments they supported me a lot, and sometimes I won because of them.
It was very nice. Still, I don't know exactly why because last year I played there, I lost first round, and nobody remembered me from last year. This year I'm an unknown player, and Becker was the [defending] champion. I was surprised the crowd supported me.
After winning only two matches in your previous four Grand Slam events, did you think there was any chance that you would reach the Australian final?
No, I didn't think I would reach a Grand Slam final this year. I thought I'd become a good player, perhaps a top 10 player, but not as fast as I've done it. So I was very surprised to reach the final.
Your two toughest Australian Open victories were five-setters over Boris Becker and Jonas Bjorkman in brutal heat. How did you pull them out?
My physical condition was very good. I trained hard since December to be able to play in five-set matches. That was the key besides my concentration. Also the crowd supported me a lot. All these things made the difference in the fifth set.
After the Australian final against Pete Sampras, the first word you heard from your father Andres was "champion." Please tell me about that phone conversation.
He knew that I lost, but to him I was the champion because he didn't expect to see me in the final. The truth is, nobody expected to see me in the final. I lost. But he was very proud of me anyway.
When you spoke with your mother Pilar, she said that the "torment and torture" were over now. What did she mean?
The tournament was over, and she knew that I had a lot of pressure on me. The success of her son was very nice. She said she had been dreaming that I would get to the final and win the tournament. And everybody woke up at 4 o'clock in the morning when I was playing. She was even happier than me about my success.
What was the reaction in Spain when you returned home after your terrific Australian Open?
When I was in Australia, I didn't know what was going to happen when I returned to Spain. When I arrived in Barcelona, I realized how important what I did in Australia was. They wanted me to win so much, they supported me from [watching me on] TV. There were telegrams, phone calls, interviews, parties, everything, when I got back.
Are you as popular in Spain as Arantxa Sanchez Vicario?
She's more popular than me. The difference is that I had a very good result last month. But Arantxa has had excellent results for nine years. She's very popular. When she loses in the quarterfinals, everybody is surprised. It's normal for Arantxa to reach the final or win the championship. It was a big suprise for them to see a 20-year-old man to reach the final in Australia. I'm very popular, but Arantxa is a bit more popular.
Are the fame and demands on your time difficult and stressful, or is your new life fun and exciting?
Sometimes it's fun and exciting, but sometimes it's boring. I cannot concentrate on my practices when I'm in Spain because I have to do interviews for newspapers and TV programs. To do it three or four times is fun, but it's not fun when I have to do it all the time. You get tired from this life, all these interviews.
When compatriot Roberto Carretero won his first pro tournament last year at Hamburg and was asked what it meant to him, he replied: "More money, more [ranking] points and more women." Do you agree with Roberto?
(Laughter) Yeah, I agree with him because things are much easier now. But you are asking the question because of the women. Right?
I have a girlfriend already. So I don't think about other women. But I have to admit it's easier now -- even easier than before. (Laughter)
You are talented, popular and handsome. Do you consider yourself a playboy?
(Laughter) No, I don't consider myself a playboy. I'm normal. I just have long hair. They consider me a playboy because I reached the final there. I told you that last year when I went to Australia, nobody talked about me and wrote about me. The more matches you win, the more you become a playboy. (Laughter) That's what I think.
When you were asked about the night life in Palm Springs, California, you downplayed it and sounded serious.
Of course. I told them I come to play the tournament and not to have fun. If I want to have fun, I would stay in Barcelona. This is my job. I have to work. I come to the United States to try to win and do my best and play good tennis.
Are you getting tired of being compared to Antonio Banderas and Andre Agassi?
I like to be compared to Andre Agassi because of the way he plays, maybe not now, but two years ago when he was at his best. I don't want to be known for my
looks -- if I'm good-looking, or if I look like Antonio Banderas. I want to be popular because of my game.
Carretero served a short stint in the Spanish army in 1996 where they cut his long hair. Will you be going into the army?
I'm going in July for one week. And I have to cut my hair.
Only one week?
Yeah. Normally it's nine months, but for a tennis player it's just one week.
You left school at age 17. Sixteen-year-old Martina Hingis recently said: "I think I learn more from traveling, from actually seeing different places rather than learning about them in a classroom." Do you agree with Martina?
I don't agree. You do learn some things traveling. You get more experience about life. But you don't learn the many things that you would learn in school. You can't learn physics and mathematics and philosophy on the tennis tour.
Please tell me about the tiebreaker you played against Pete Sampras in a clinic in Barcelona two years ago.
I was a spectator there, and he was a big star player. I was 18 and only 350 in the rankings. I was really impressed because he was No. 1. I liked playing a tiebreaker against him a lot. But a lot of things have changed since then. And last year I reached the semifinals in that same tournament where I played a tiebreaker exhibition the year before.
After Sampras beat you 6-2, 6-3, 6-3 in the Australian Open final, you said: "I have learned a lot from this match." What exactly did you learn?
Two days before [the final] I beat the No. 2 [Michael Chang] not easily, but more easily than I thought I could. Against the No. 1 I learned ... and he showed everybody how great No. 1 is. I also learned you have to get experience. If you want to win a big tournament, first you have to lose. So that's what I learned.
Is improving your net game the key to reaching your new goal of the top 5 or even No. 1?
It's one of the things I need to improve. There are a lot of things. But I'm young. Sometimes when I attack, I don't know what I'm doing at net. You feel badly when you make mistakes on easy volleys, on points that you should win but you lose. I've worked hard on improving my net game, but I still have to improve much more.
Manolo Santana, Spain's 1960s star, has praised the camaraderie of the Spanish players and says, "They all have a good relationship, they are very special guys, like the Australians were in my time." Please tell me about that.
Yeah, it's true. We are very good friends. That makes you feel not alone when you are on the tour. When you have time off and nothing to do, you go with them and play cards with them, talk with them, make jokes. You have fun with them. You have a lot of time with nothing to do, and your friendships are one of the keys to happiness on the tour.
Is it difficult though to be good friends with Costa and Mantilla and Bruguera when you play them the next day in the final for $100,000 or maybe even $500,000?
Yeah, it's not easy. When you play against them and fight to beat them, you are not friends. But outside the court we have to be friends because you spend more time with them than even with your parents.
You are unbeaten in Davis Cup with a 4-0 record in singles. Sampras and Chang often skip the Davis Cup, as do Becker and Stich occasionally. Do you like playing Davis Cup for Spain?
I like it a lot because you have very special feelings in Davis Cup. You are not playing only for yourself; you are playing for your country. You have more pressure, but I like this kind of pressure because this pressure is motivation at the same time. When I played last month against Germany, it was in my hometown, and it was unbelievable. I won the third point [that clinched Spain's victory], and it was the best thing that could happen.
Was playing and beating Germany 4-1 in your hometown the most pressure you have ever faced?
Yeah, I think so. In Australia I didn't feel the pressure because normally the pressure comes from the journalists and the people around you who want you to win. The people around me in Australia were just my coach, my manager and my brother [Jose] and Manolo Santana. So that's not pressure. They know how you feel, and they support you. But when I came back to Barcelona, to Mallorca, I had to face a lot of pressure after what had happened in Australia. But I played well [in
Davis Cup] and won both my points. And it was very nice how I felt after beating [Hendrik] Dreekmann for the third [team] point. The excitement of the people was unbelievable. These wonderful things happen only in Davis Cup.
You seem to be a calm person who can handle pressure well.
Yeah. People from Mallorca are known for being like that. (Laughter) That's what everybody says. I'm calm. It's better to be like this. But I'm not doing anything to prove how I am. These are things that are inside of you, and you cannot learn them.
Spain has never captured the Davis Cup although it reached the Challenge Round in 1965 and 1967 behind Santana's heroics. How important is winning the Davis Cup to you?
It's important. But we have to go step by step. Our next tie is against Italy. And if we beat them -- whether or not I am playing -- and then get to the Davis Cup final and win, it will be incredible. That would be one of the nicest things that can happen to you.
To achieve that, Davis Cup captain Santana insists that Spanish players learn to play on all surfaces, as he did a generation ago, instead of being only clay court specialists. He also wants you to play more doubles. Do you agree with Santana's formula for success?
It's very important to play well on all kinds of surfaces. We realized that last year when Corretja and Javier Sanchez reached the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open. That showed us that if they can do it, we can do it. We have worked a lot on hardcourts since December. Playing doubles is also very important, but now I have to concentrate on my singles. That's the most important thing for me.
You beat the best clay court player, Muster, to break his 38-match clay winning streak; you beat Becker, a great indoor player, indoors; and you proved you are excellent on hardcourts by reaching the Australian final. Do you consider yourself a complete player?
Yes, but I can improve on hard courts, on grass and even on clay. There are only two or three weeks of grass scheduled on the tour. So it's important, but it's more important to be good on hard courts. I'm going to play two tournaments on grass in June -- Wimbledon and one tournament before that. This year I'm going to play only 11 or 12 of my 28 tournaments on clay. I don't want to be a good player only on clay. The secret of becoming good on hard courts is playing lots of tournaments on hard courts.
For the past 20 years the United States has had more players in the top 100 men's rankings than any other country. Now Spain has the most, 15. Why is Spain producing so many world-class players?
The federation is working effectively. We also have 10 satellite tournaments. So you don't need to go to foreign countries to get your first [ATP ranking] points and spend your money. When you are young, it's difficult because you don't have enough money and your parents have to help you. We have very good coaches, too.
You have an interesting Carlos Moya Web site in both Spanish and English on the Internet. Will you be using it to communicate with your fans?
Yes, I know it. But I've never been on the Internet. They tell me there are a lot of messages from my fans, and the site explains my beginnings [as a player]. I like it, but I've never seen it.
The French Open has been wide open for the past three years with six different players making the men's singles final. Do you think you will make the final this year?
(Laughter) It's very difficult to make the final of a Grand Slam tournament. You have to play well for two weeks. If I play well, I have a chance to go far.
On clay I think you are as good as anyone.
Yeah, I beat Muster, Alberto Costa, Berasategui. They are the best players.
How did you meet your Romanian girlfriend?
I was playing a tournament in Bucharest where I reached the final, and she was there. Her name is Raluca Sandu.
What do you like most about Raluca?
The thing I like most about her is that she is natural. She is sincere.
Is she good-looking?
Of course! (Laughter)
Are you a romantic guy?
Yeah. Sometimes I give my girlfriend flowers.
Is romance on the pro tour possible since you'll both be traveling to tournaments and will be away from each other often?
It's not easy to have a relationship, but we are trying to do our best. I don't see her very much.
You said, "She's a tennis player. She has her own tennis career and her own life." Are you a modern man who believes in equality between men and women?
Yeah, I think so in marriage and business. But in tennis women are complaining all the time they don't get the same prize money as men. I think it's fair now because we play [best of] five sets and they don't.
How important is religion in your life?
It's important. You have a good feeling when you are in church. I'm religious but not as much as [Michael] Chang.
Two extremely enthusiastic fans cheered for you throughout the Australian Open and wore "We Love Carlos" T-shirts. When you heard they couldn't afford tickets to the final, you arranged for them to sit in the players' section for the final. Please tell me about that.
From the first day they came to cheer for me and support me. I met them after I played the semis and beat Chang. They were waiting for me downstairs in the hotel. They said, "We wish you the best, we'll see you next year because we don't have tickets." They helped me a lot with their support. So I got some tickets for them.
You often acknowledge the crowd by holding your hands up after winning matches. Yannick Noah, the 1983 French Open champion, once said that the most important thing to him was "to make a whole stadium enjoy themselves." Do you agree with Noah?
Yeah. It's very nice for people to enjoy the match. If they support you, you
should thank them for their support because their support helps you to come back from the bad moments. It's very important.
Did you go to the Spanish bars in Melbourne during the Australian Open?
I went out only the last night after the final. We had a big party. (Laughter)
Did you get drunk?
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