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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Monday May 16, 2022

 
Michael Mmoh

24-year-old Michael Mmoh believes his best tennis is in front of him as he prepares for the main draw at Roland Garros next week.

Photo Source: Getty
 

As a top junior, Michael Mmoh knows a thing or two about heavy expectations. He was the No.2-ranked junior in 2015, pushing for junior Slam titles and thought of as one of the most promising American players.



He remains one of the more promising Americans, but one with unfinished business in 2022. Mmoh, the son of Toni Mmoh, who is a former World No.105 that played for Nigeria during his career, believes he is on the rise after several seasons of fits and starts due to injuries.

He recently won the USTA’s French Open wild card playoff and will take his place in the main draw at Roland-Garros for the second time next week. Having topped out in the ATP rankings at 96 in 2018, Mmoh currently ranks 179 – but, at the age of 24, he feels he has the capacity to go much higher.

We asked him if players like Aslan Karatsev, who came from relative obscurity to become the lowest-ranked player to reach the Australian Open semifinals on his Grand Slam debut last year, inspire him to believe that he can rise up the ranks on tour.

“[Players like that] show me that no matter how long you might be playing challengers or whatever that doesn’t necessarily mean that you are a challenger player,” he said. “It just hasn’t clicked yet in terms of you making that breakthrough, and I feel like if I’m able to consistently be healthy and just give myself opportunities week in and week out, I feel like my game belongs on the ATP Tour, so I think if I’m able to just keep working hard, keep staying healthy, I’ll be surprised if I’m not there.”

Despite struggling with injuries over the last few seasons, Mmoh has made big strides. He won his first Grand Slam main draw match at the Australian Open in 2020 and has since reached the second round at two other majors. The potential to do damage on the biggest stages is there – now it’s just about getting everything in sync, mentally and physically.

“I would always miss four months here, three months there, so now I feel like my body is finally at a place where I am able to play week in and week out and I’m liking how my game is forming because of that,” Mmoh says. “I’m able to get consistent reps of playing matches and I really think this year is going to be a good year for me because of that.”

Mmoh spends a lot of time training in Bradenton, Florida, where he is a regular hitting partner of Sebastian Korda, Denis Shapovalov and other top pros. He says the experience can only help him.

“It’s a very competitive atmosphere, I’m able to hit with Sebi a lot, Shapo when he’s here. Obviously my goal is to be playing with these guys week in and week out, and it’s a good place to train because it feels like you are on the tour with them when you are training with them.”


Currently coached by Oggie Samardzic, Mmoh also remains super close with his dad, who speaks with him after every match, and just spent a week-long training block close to Michael in Bradenton. Mmoh’s relationship with Samardzic, who is less than five years older than him, is based on synergy. He says he gets juice from his coach, and feeds off his passion.

“I just felt like he was a good guy for me, because I was kind of in a little bit of a rut and he was a guy that could come in and really motivate me,” he says. “He has a very good way with his words and he comes with a lot of passion. And I feel like he has definitely sparked something in me.”

Mmoh, who will turn 25 next January, also gets passion from other athletes. He bingewatched the Michael Jordan documentary, “The Last Dance” during the pandemic and says that he is still inspired from watching it.

Mmoh was actually named after MJ, so the connection for him is particularly strong. He says watching the documentary has helped him see his potential in a new light.

“That was super inspiring, just like you said, as a fellow athlete to see his mentality there are a lot of great athletes, a lot of great basketball players and tennis players, but it is really the mentality that sets each one of them apart from being great or good and you definitely see that in Michael,” he said. “It was just inspiring because that is something that can be a switch almost, you can definitely bring that spark within and once you do, I feel like you are really going to reach your full potential. Michael and the show was a great example of all of that.”

Mmoh points out that Jordan was overlooked when he was young, and nothing was handed to him. The GOAT of basketball played with a chip on his shoulder throughout his legendary career.

Mmoh intends to take a page from that playbook this week in Paris, and for the rest of his career, as well.

“It sounds tough and it sounds like its years and years of a certain type of mindset but once you do make that switch it can be night and day, and I feel like I’m starting to make that switch, I already feel it, I feel like I’m getting more passionate about the game, and I think that’s the key, ultimately,” he says. “Somebody who is extremely passionate about what they do day-in and day-out, it’s just gonna show in their work and results.”

 

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