Each week, Baseline will take a look at a player who has thrived at one of the stops on the ATP and WTA tours during their career. (Photos: Getty Images)
Playing the fourth ATP Tour-level event of his career in Umag, Croatia, back in 1995, 18-year-old Carlos Moya of Spain fell in the opening round to his countryman Alberto Berasetegui in a third-set tiebreak—an impressive result given that Berasetegui was only a year removed from reaching the final of the French Open.
Having shot up the standings, Moya returned to the coastal city a year later ranked No. 29 in the world and claimed the top prize, defeating four of his compatriots—including Felix Mantilla in the final—for his second career title.
That victory kicked off a prolific run at the tournament for the Spaniard, as he would go on to add four more titles there over the course of his Hall-of-Fame-worthy career.
In 1997, after starting the year with runner-up finishes in Sydney and at the Australian Open, world No. 10 Moya attempted to defend his title in Umag, but Mantilla turned the tables on him and stopped him in the semifinals. Over the course of the next few years, Moya failed to add to his overall title haul there, failing to get past the semis in his next three attempts.
That drought ended in 2001, when he kicked off an unprecedented run at the 11-year-old tournament. Rebounding from a back injury the year prior, Moya—ranked No. 20 in the world—battled to his second Umag title: going the distance in three of his five matches and winning a third-set tiebreak against Jerome Golmard in the final.
Still in the top 20 a year later, Moya defended his championship with a win in the final over a young countryman whose ascent mirrored his own several years earlier. Playing in only the second ATP-level tournament of his career, David Ferrer had a solid run before falling to the 1998 French Open champion.
Moya and Ferrer met again a year later, this time in the quarterfinals, with a similar result. Moya’s opponent in the semifinals would be his fellow Mallorcan, 17-year-old Rafael Nadal, who had actually beaten him earlier in the year in Hamburg. Moya exacted a measure of revenge by topping the teenager in straight sets, and then went on to beat Filipo Volandri of Italy in the final for his third straight title there.
Volandri brought Moya’s winning streak to a halt in the 2004 semifinals, then Guilermo Coria handed Moya his first loss in a Umag final in 2005. Attempting to re-enter the winner’s circle in 2006, Moya was beaten in the semifinals by the rising Serbian, Novak Djokovic.
On the north side of 30 by the start of the 2007 tournament and still in the top 20, Moya didn’t drop a set on his way to his fifth title in Umag, which included wins against the defending champion, 22-year-old Stan Wawrinka, and Ferrer before beating former world No. 13 Andrei Pavel in the final.
That would be the last triumph in Croatia for the Spaniard, as 20-year-old Fabio Fognini stopped him in the quarterfinals in 2008. And perhaps, fittingly, that would also be the final overall title of Moya’s career, coming at a place that saw him achieve so much over the years.