On 9 May 2004, Carlos Moya won the third and final ATP Masters 1000 title of his career at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, beating David Nalbandian 6-3, 6-3, 6-1 in the championship match at the Foro Italico. On the 16th anniversary of that moment, the former World No. 1 in the FedEx ATP Rankings reflected on his dream week in Italy and a title that had evaded him until then.
“I hadn’t done well in Rome,” Moyà told ATPTour.com. “I don’t know why. I loved the tournament and I really liked playing there, but I hadn’t had great results. Of the tournaments on clay, with Monte-Carlo, Barcelona and Paris, it was the one I had the least success at.
“It was the same in Cincinnati. I couldn’t win a match and suddenly I won the tournament, but that one made more sense. Historically, I had done better at the other clay-court tournaments, so I can’t see why it shouldn’t have been the same there.”
Moya overcame Alberto Martin and Ivan Ljubicic in the first two rounds without great difficulty. The Spaniard then met then Ivo Karlovic, No. 70 in the rankings. Moya’s 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 victory over the Croatian took him to the quarter-finals and made him a clear contender for the title.
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“Karlovic was always a tough opponent,” Moya said. “It was the only time we played on clay. I’d always beaten him on hard courts, but with closer results. He was an uncomfortable opponent. Karlovic forces you not to make any mistakes because if you relax he might take the set, and I was well known for the odd lapse in concentration. Sometimes I would get back into the game and win, but on other occasions it would cost me the match.
“[But] little by little, things came together that year. Before, when I went to a tournament, I wasn’t thinking about winning it. I was thinking about surviving the first few days and seeing how I felt so that I could find my game from the quarter-finals.”
After beating Andrei Pavel and Mariano Zabaleta in the quarter-finals and semi-finals, respectively, Moya squared off against Nalbandian in the championship match. The Spaniard played flawlessly to break his opponent six times en route to taking the title.
”Nalbandian is my friend and he was back then too,” Moya said. ”I watched some of that match the other day when they were showing it on television. David was also a player who would get distracted at times. I remember the break in the first set came through mistakes that he didn’t normally make. It was better to meet him in the early rounds because he tended to play his best tennis in finals, but I grew into the game and played a very good match.
“The Masters 1000 [titles] are highly coveted. For Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, they are valuable, but it’s a little different. For those that have none, it’s the greatest thing.”