Barcelona: Carlos Moya is fit, in form and utterly convinced he is now a better all-round player than when he won the French Open as a fearless 21-year-old back in 1998.
Moya fulfilled a long and dearly held ambition by claiming his first title on home soil with victory over Marat Safin in the final of the Barcelona Open on Sunday.
The charismatic Mallorcan will now look to use that success as a springboard for another Grand Slam title and a crack at the No. 1 world ranking by the end of the year.
ďIíve improved a lot since I won Roland Garros, above all in mental terms,Ē Moya said after taking the clay-court title in Barcelona.
ďTo really show Iíve improved Iíll have to win another Grand Slam. Letís see if I have a bit of luck and itís in Paris this year.Ē
Moya became the first Spaniard to hold the No. 1 ranking in the world for a two-week period in March 1999.
Shortly after reaching that landmark, he suffered a stress fracture to his lower back that threatened not just his ranking but his career.
After an agonising recovery period, when he would play well for a while only to suffer another injury setback or see his form desert him, he returned to the top 10 in 2002 with four ATP titles.
ďI knew that if Iíd been a great player I could become great again and I worked extremely hard to do it,Ē Moya said.
Moyaís victory in Barcelona last week was his second tournament win of the season and he is holding firm at No. 4 in the world behind Andre Agassi, Lleyton Hewitt and Juan Carlos Ferrero.
While Agassi and Hewitt are way out in front, Ferrero is now firmly within his sights and he is clearly looking forward to catching his countryman over the remainder of the season.
ďAgassi and Hewitt are both at an incredible level but I am getting closer,Ē Moya said.
ďFor the moment Iím just going step by step. Iíve learned that the No. 1 spot is not going to come overnight ó itís a product of a lot of hard work and thatís what Iím concentrating on now.Ē
New Delhi Challenger
Meanwhile, in New Delhi, Karan Rastogiís splendid run in the $25,000 Servo ATP Challenger tennis tournament came to an end when he lost to Briton Arvind Parmar 6-3, 3-6, 4-6 in the first round Monday.
Another Indian challenge, wild card Vijay Kannan bowed out to sixth seed Yen-Hsun Lu 1-6, 4-6 in slightly over an hour.