Playing tennis and having fun

“There’s always room to improve no matter how old you are or how long you have been playing the sport,” says Carlos Moya in a chat with Nandita Sridhar.

Off the court, Carlos Moya looked his age. The 31-year-old Spaniard seemed perfectly at ease being the oldest player in the Top-20. On the court, Moya matched his younger compatriot, Rafael Nadal, for nearly four hours, but off it there were no fancy claims; instead, he had a pragmatic understanding of the demands it took to stay on top.

Excerpts from an interview:

How is it for someone above 30 to stay in the Top-20?

As long as you are healthy and in good shape you have a chance. There’s always room to improve no matter how old you are or how long you have been playing the sport. You try new things on the court and you adapt your game to the present conditions.

I love playing tennis, so it’s not difficult for me. I’m ready for long matches, and I try and use my experience for the matches.

How do you tackle players who are much younger?

I think the younger players are physically better than I am and use more power, but I am more experienced. Of course, different players play differently. It is different when you play someone like (Rafael) Nadal or (Novak) Djokovic than a 20-year-old ranked 100.

Do you think you can break back into the Top-5?

I think Top-10 is a realistic target. I am pretty close to that. The Top-5 is pretty tough, you already have three players who are tough to beat — Federer, Nadal and Djokovic — after that there are only two places left. I had an excellent year in 2007, and was pretty close to being ranked in the Top-10 after the U.S. Open. The first goal is the Top-15 and then the Top-10.

What keeps you going even at this age?

My love for the sport. I believe in myself, but there is room for improvement. I also like to work on my game. Right from when I was young I was working on different aspects of my game and that has helped me now.

How have you evolved as a player over the years?

I have evolved as a player. When I was 20 and 21, I decided that if I wanted to be on top, I had to develop different things. I tried to work on different aspects of my game and mix things up. I tried to develop shots I didn’t have, I tried to be more aggressive, shorten points. All that has helped me now, I think.

Do you think the ‘forever bridesmaid’ tag is fair on Nadal?

Tennis is a fair sport and we have a ranking system that reflects who the number one player is. I think it is unfair because Nadal is playing alongside the greatest player ever and that maybe unfair on him. Otherwise it is a fair reflection because Roger is the better player. I do think Nadal can be number one.

You’ve always enjoyed coming to Chennai and participating in the Chennai Open. Have you experienced anything of the city, or has it been just your success on the court that has warmed you to the place?

When you are practising twice a day and playing matches, it is not possible for you to visit the city and see sights. I like the city; the people I find are kind and warm. I have great memories. I like to be here, so I come back.

You’ve been involved in a lot of things outside tennis. Has there always been more to Moya than the tennis player?

I have always maintained tennis is my number one priority. I just want to play tennis and have some fun. I have hopefully done enough in my career to be remembered as a tennis player.

Whatever I have done other than tennis — acting, music, bringing out my line of perfume — is when I have got free time from tennis.

Have you thought of life after tennis?

I think I am still healthy enough to be playing for another two years. I’ll think about it after that.