Moya shows form that made him No. 1

Monday, August 12th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MASON, Ohio (AP) _ Carlos Moya didn't surprise many people when he beat Lleyton Hewitt twice this year on clay.

The Spaniard's victory over the No. 1 player in the world on a hard court, however, showed how far Moya has come back.

``Hardcourt is not my favorite surface, but I know I can adapt pretty well,'' Moya said after beating Hewitt 7-5, 7-6 (5) Sunday in the final of the dlrs 2.95 million Cincinnati Masters Series.

``I was lucky to beat him today,'' Moya said. ``But with me, anything is possible. And if I'm lucky, I can play well and I can win any tournament.''

Moya, the French Open champion in 1998, was ranked No. 1 in the world briefly in 1999 before injuring his back.

``This is the most important thing for me, to be healthy and fit,'' Moya said. ``I'm healthy already. I'm fit. I know when this happens I can be a dangerous player.''

Since his injury, Moya's battle to comeback has been slow. He was No. 41 in the 2000 rankings, and No. 19 last year. Going into this week, he was No. 13 in ATP points for 2002, but jumped to No. 5 by beating Hewitt.

``What I learned this year is that you just have to enjoy on court, and when you have the bad moments, you have to think that the good ones are going to come soon,'' Moya said.

``Being in the top 10 is something I've been waiting for since I was injured,'' he said. ``It took a while to recover, but it looks like now I am playing pretty well.''

Although he won titles at Acapulco, Bastad and Umag this year, his best previous finish in a major tournament was runner-up to Juan Carlos Ferrero at Monte Carlo in April.

Moya, who won dlrs 392,000, did not lose a set in six matches this week, and beat Hewitt in the final with powerful forehand strokes that even the indefatigable Australian could not reach.

``I tried to get into as many rallies as possible and give myself a chance to take the initiative before he started making me run and moving the ball well,'' Hewitt said.

``As soon as he gets around and whacks that forehand and he's on the offense, he's an extremely tough player to put back on the defensive from that position.''

A weather interruption gave Moya a chance to change his strategy.

The sky had darkened and the lights came on early in the match. After one break apiece and the first set tied 4-4, play was suspended for 2 hours, 18 minutes because of rain.

Moya watched videotape of the match.

``I realized I wasn't hitting the ball very hard,'' Moya said. ``I thought that if I'm in a final, it's because I've been taking a lot of risk. I had been hitting the ball hard, and that's what I had to do.

``I came after the rain knowing that I was going to have to hit the ball hard, and it worked out pretty well.''

When play resumed, Moya held serve twice, then broke Hewitt in the 12th game to take the set.

Hewitt had Moya down 5-2 in the second set, but could not put him away. Hewitt failed to hold serve twice, sending the set to a tiebreaker.

But at 5-5 in the tiebreaker, Hewitt double-faulted then hit Moya's serve beyond the baseline on match point.

``I didn't make too many first serves, but I didn't hit the ball all that bad,'' Hewitt said.

Moya was simply too strong, too consistent and too crafty, he said.

``He's been there before and he knows how to play the big points well,'' Hewitt said. ``He's a former No. 1 _ that's not a bad loss.''

Hewitt may take home only half of the dlrs 206,000 runner-up's share. The ATP levied a fine Monday of dlrs 20,000 or half of Hewitt's winnings _ whichever is greater _ for failing to take part in a mandatory tour promotion, a pre-tournament interview with ESPN.

Hewitt plans to appeal the fine.

Hewitt, preparing for his U.S. Open title defense, has won four titles this year, including Wimbledon and the Masters Series event in Indian Wells, California.

He lost in the first round a week ago in Toronto but was pleased with his progress this week. He is the No. 1 seed in the RCA Championships this week in Indianapolis.

``Sure, I'm disappointed. I would have liked to win another tournament,'' Hewitt said. ``But with the U.S. Open coming up in two weeks, it's going in the right direction at the moment.''

James Blake and Todd Martin won the doubles title, worth dlrs 135,150 for the team, by beating third-seeded Mahesh Bhupathi and Max Mirnyi 7-5, 6-3.

The tournament was sponsored by the Western & Southern Financial Group.