Carlos Moya, first Spaniard to reach No. 1, retires

Chris Chase
November 18, 2010

For a time, Rafael Nadal was only the second most famous tennis player from the small Spanish island of Mallorca.

Carlos Moya, born nine years before Nadal, was the first; winning the French Open in 1998 and later becoming the first Spaniard ever to reach No. 1 in the ATP rankings. Though he never challenged for another major after defeating Alex Corretja 12 years ago in Paris, Moya grinded for the next decade, his ranking oscillating between the top 10 and top 40 throughout the 2000s. He finally dropped out of the top 100 last August.

A nagging foot injury was to blame, and it was that ailment which forced the 34-year-old into retirement this week. When he lost 6-0, 6-2 on the clay of Madrid in May, Moya said he knew his career was over. He wanted to go out in a Slam, but opted instead to play one more tournament in his home country before calling it quits.

Moya's powerful groundstrokes helped propel him to the top of the tennis world in the late-'90s as part of the first wave of Spaniards who set the stage for the dominant clay courters of today like Nadal, Fernando Verdasco and David Ferrer. Though Moya was only No. 1 for two weeks in 1999 (the second-shortest stint in rankings history), he was a constant threat, especially on clay. His 16 titles on the surface are tied for 10th most all-time.

Early in Nadal's career, Moya played a sort of big brother role to the future king of Mallorca. While Nadal was known just as much early on for his sleeveless shirts and capri pants than he was for his tennis prowess, it was a style he took from Moya, who first introduced the look to tennis.

The pair were asked a lot about their relationship, with Moya always downplaying his role in Nadal's development. "I don't think he learned anything from me," Moya said of Nadal in 2007. "And if he learned it, he did much better than me."

Be that as it may, Carlos Moya did it first.