Nadal bulled over by unseeded Moya
By Charles Bricker
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Posted March 25 2006
KEY BISCAYNE -- If this was a bullfight, Rafael Nadal would have been down on his knees at 1-4 in the third set, the audience on the stadium court would have been chanting "Ole" and Carlos Moya would have tossed aside his red cape and moved in for the final thrust.
It wasn't the first stunning, early-round upset in the 23-year history of the Nasdaq-100 Open and its various other names. In 2003, No. 1-seeded Lleyton Hewitt was beaten by Francisco Clavet in his opening match and, the previous year, little Anna Smashnova shocked Justine Henin-Hardenne in the second round.
But this one will be particularly memorable because of the charisma that has grown up around the No. 2-ranked Nadal, the only player to have beaten Roger Federer this season and, for many, the one player who can take Federer to the wall, as he did in the final here a year ago.
On a day in which Justine Henin-Hardenne, the No. 3 seed in the women's tournament, was defeated by Meghann Shaughnessy, Moya played perhaps his best tennis in years and showed that, at 29, he's not quite ready for the far side of the hill.
"You have to play perfect and wish that he is not going to be at his best. I think today these two things happened," said Moya.
He didn't just defeat Nadal. He crushed him 2-6, 6-1, 6-1, swamping him in the final two sets and playing such great defense to go with his usual aggressive offense that Nadal was able to stroke only six ground-stroke winners -- an unheard of number for him in a three-set match.
Moya, unseeded with his ranking down to 35, advanced to the third round on Sunday with No. 5 Nikolay Davydenko, No. 6 Ivan Ljubicic, No. 15 Radek Stepanek and No. 16 Nicolas Kiefer.
There was one other upset. No. 12 Richard Gasquet lost to French countryman Florent Serra.
On the women's side, top-seeded Amelie Mauresmo needed only 44 minutes to beat Samantha Stosur 6-0, 6-0 and move on to the third round with No. 5 Nadia Petrova, No. 7 Patty Schnyder, No. 12 Svetlana Kuznetsova, No. 13 Daniela Hantuchova and No. 15 Elena Likhovtseva.
There were a few other significant wins. Australian Open runner-up Marcos Baghdatis won his second-round match; as did Americans Mardy Fish and Robby Ginepri; Jamea Jackson of Sarasota, who upset Gisela Dulko; and Sunrise Challenger winner Dmitry Tursunov.
Nadal's apologists will be rationalizing this loss by pointing to the left foot he sprained at Indian Wells a week and a half ago, and Nadal acknowledged he was feeling it. But, he added, "I don't want to make excuses."
A moment later, however, he was explaining that, "I didn't feel physically very good when the points got longer."
That could be because he was feeling fatigue in his ankle. It could also be because Moya was slashing forehands like he was 21 again, and because his serve was just about flawless in the final two sets.
"I know he had a problem with the ankle last week. I don't know how bad it was. If I was winning the match, I wasn't asking him how his foot is or his ankle is," Moya said.
Everything was working for Moya. You expected his forehand ground strokes to be strong, and his serve to be effective, but it was the other parts of his game that made the difference.
He played great defense, thwarting Nadal's heavy ground stroking. Usually, the longer the rallies, the less chance you have with Nadal.
"Today, I was feeling comfortable. I wasn't afraid to keep the point going. I just waited for my chance," Moya said.
He broke Nadal in the opening game of the final set with a backhand topspin lob -- the same stroke he used on the final point.
With Nadal serving at love-30 and 1-3 in the last set, Moya hit the shot of the match, a running backhand crosscourt pass. When you hit a shot like that, are you thinking, "I can do anything today?" he was asked.
He grinned. "More or less, yeah. Just try to hit shots you don't normally do. It looks like everything is going in, so that gives you a lot of confidence."
The win will send him against Argentine Agustin Calleri on Sunday.
If there was one American that desperately needed a win, it was Ginepri, who had slumped to 1-6 coming to South Florida after reaching the semifinals of the U.S. Open last September and taking Andre Agassi to five sets before losing.
"It's not really a relief, but it definitely felt good," he said after beating Kenneth Carlsen in straight sets. Beginning the season at No. 15 and with few points to defend, there were many that thought he would be top-10 by now. Instead, he's slipped to No. 21.
"It was in the back of my mind," Ginepri said. He says he has that problem squared away. He'll next play Christophe Rochus for a spot in the fourth round. He may yet reach top 10 before the French Open.