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Read profiles of Alex Corretja and Carlos Moya from the French Open's site.

  Moya's Feels Grand With First Slam Win

Spain's Carlos Moya (left) hugs fellow countryman Alex Corretja after Moya
won the 1998 French Open.
By Amy Shipley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 8, 1998; Page B10

PARIS, June 7 — Pele? Soccer balls? Is this the World Cup or the French Open? Moments after being crowned French Open singles champion today, Carlos Moya knocked a soccer ball off his forehead to former soccer star Pele, beginning an impressive game of headball on the awards podium.

Then, Alex Corretja — perhaps the most good-natured French Open loser in tournament history — got involved in the juggling, first with his head, then with his feet, passing the ball skillfully from instep to instep, and finally booting it into the stands at Stade Roland Garros.

Perhaps this is how France concludes one major sporting event and prepares to play host to another. Moya's 6-3, 7-5, 6-3 defeat of countryman Corretja today made him the fourth Spanish male to win a French Open title. He earned that distinction three days before the start of the 1998 World Cup of soccer, which will bring 32 teams to France in a month-long chase for another coveted championship cup.

"I cannot describe how happy I am," said Moya, 21. "I cannot explain it with words. The feeling I have is unbelievable."

Today's Grand Slam victory was the first for Moya, putting him on a list of winners that includes Spaniards Manuel Santana (1961, 1964), Andres Gimeno (1972) and Sergi Bruguera (1993, 1994). It also ensures that Moya will move to No. 5 in the rankings, matching his career high.

"If I win Wimbledon," Moya joked about the Grand Slam that is two weeks away, "maybe I am number one?"

At the conclusion of the match, Moya dropped to his knees, then fell on his back, rolling in the sticky red clay that had been his good friend for two weeks while he won seven matches, including a victory over Chilean Carlos Rios. Corretja bounded over the net, smiling broadly as he sprinted to embrace Moya. The fellow Spaniards have been friends for six years. Like the rest of the so-called Spanish Armada, Corretja and Moya train together, travel together and dine together.

Tonight, they planned to celebrate together at a Paris disco.

"Even though you won against me today," Corretja, 24, said to Moya and the crowd in French after the match, "I love you all the same. It's difficult for me to be here and lose a final, but it doesn't matter to me because I lost to a friend."

Uncertain how to alter his game to adjust to the windy conditions, Corretja played conservatively and without the well-placed and inventive shots Moya unveiled. Using an array of weapons, including change-of-pace drop shots and a strong forehand, Moya proved the master of this afternoon's contest. Having relied on a powerful serve throughout the match, Moya closed out the last game in appropriate fashion: with one ace and surrendering no points.

"I was very focused today," Moya said. "I knew it was my chance to win a Grand Slam. So anything could have happened today — snow, rain, storm, whatever — and I was going to be there, really focused."

Said Corretja: "All my game didn't work really well. I've been working so hard to find my style on the court. Today, I couldn't find it."

The match was characterized by cordial sportsmanship. On errant line calls, each player trusted the other to offer an honest assessment. On one ball of Corretja's that was ruled in, Moya outlined it in the clay with his racket, showing it was out. Because it was game point for Moya, both players walked to the side well before the chair umpire had examined the mark and confirmed Moya's ruling.

"We didn't need the chair umpire or linesman . . . next time, we're just going to play by ourselves," Corretja said. "I think it's great. I trust him. I never check the mark. He never checks the mark with me. . . . Honestly, when I finished and saw him that happy, I was feeling happy as well, because he is my friend."

Both players seemed to enjoy immensely their encounter with Pele, a three-time World Cup champion with Brazil.

"We were asking him, 'How is it possible that you were that good?'" Corretja said. "He was just laughing. . . . He never said. Maybe he keeps it [to himself]. Maybe that's why he was that good."

Despite his loss at Roland Garros, Corretja took solace in the fact that, in his opinion, he had found his niche in another game — soccer.

"Maybe I'm going to ask [Spain World Cup Coach Javier] Clemente if he wants me for the team," Corretja said hopefully. "I see myself doing quite well with the ball."

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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