(This story was published in 2004)

By: Patricia Neil Warren

American guys who go for Spanish guys have been salivating for days over Carlos Moya’s and Rafael Nadal’s images on the little screen. Forget patriotism. Forget the U.S.’s struggle to stay a world power. Thanks in part to his gay fans, the handsome 26-year-old Moya has figured on media lists of “beautiful people.” This weekend he filled the “beautiful” bill again, with his long lean legs and red Nike headband, as he ended Andy Roddick’s hopes of bringing the Davis Cup back to the U.S.

But it takes more than looks to win the Davis Cup. Moya held the edge on superior tennis

— among other things, by the devastating use of those drop shots of his, and by keeping his cool and letting Roddick make mistakes. Through the finals he kept a poker face. Only when he’d taken the match did Moya show some feeling and fall on his knees…before the overheated aficionados rushed onto the court and carried him around in triumph like it was the soccer World Cup.

American whiners wanted to blame the loss on the noisiness of 27,000 Spanish fans who filled the Estadio Olympico in Sevilla. Oh yes, they were noisy. Anybody who has ever been at a big soccer match in Spain knows how alegre they can be. Plus Sevilla is a city where huge crowds are a tradition — they let out all the stops during their famed Fair and Holy Week. The announcer kept trying to shush them, saying, “Silencio, por favor.” By the final day he had the crowd pretty well-trained — as the ball went into play again, the clamor would instantly drop to a hush, like a faucet turned off. The minute Moya scored, they erupted into wild cheers and singing, dizzying the eye with thousands of red-and-yellow Spanish banners waving.

In fact, if you turned off the TV picture and just listened to the sound track, you could always tell when Roddick scored… by the pugnacious but puny applause of the 600+ Americans in the stadium.

The American whiners also tried to blame it on Roddick’s unease on clay. Moya is known as the Duke of Dirt.

To his credit Roddick hung on like a bulldog, through two nailbiting tie-breakers. Afterwards he didn’t whine or make excuses. Good for him.

Exciting stuff. Tantrum meister John McEnroe complained in a recent ESPN interview that tennis has gotten boring and needs him. Nuh-uh. These Davis Cup finals were pretty darn exciting, and nobody threw any rackets or anything.

Spain first fell madly in love with tennis in the 1960s. I was living there at the time, and saw the national madness erupt over Manuel Santana. He was the first Spanish player to carry that red-and-yellow Spanish banner into international acclaim, by winning the men’s singles at Wimbledon in 1966. Santana went on to be Spain’s team captain for the Davis Cup…but this great win stayed a distant dream for the Spanish. Not till 2000 did they finally beat Australia and take the Davis Cup home for the first time in their history.

Before the finals started in Sevilla, Santana told the press that he had “blind faith” in the Spanish team’s ability to beat the U.S.

To the whiners, I say this: the U.S. won the Davis Cup 31 times, so we have nothing to feel sorry for ourselves about. And we can be thankful for the gracious welcome in Spain, considering that the new government and many Spanish people are unfriendly to Bush’s war policies. But everybody concerned kept the game clear of global politics. As far as I know, the U.S. players were treated well, and no ugly incidents were reported by the media.

American women who go for Spanish women already had their chance to salivate — over Conchita Martinez during the Athens Olympics.