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Motivated by recent success, Michael Mmoh “coming into form” in Houston
The 24-year-old American will face Nick Kyrgios in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Men's Clay Court Championship, after a snakebitten 2021 season sent him down the rankings.
Published Apr 08, 2022
WATCH: The U.S. Men's Clay Court Championship began in 1910, and has been held in 21 different U.S. cities. In 2000, it came to Houston, at the Westside Tennis Club. Since 2008, it has remained in the same city, but has been played at River Oaks Country Club.
Though still way down in the rankings, Michael Mmoh is turning his play around.
Currently No. 226, the 24-year-old lucky loser is into the quarterfinal of the Fayez Sarofim & Co. U.S. Men's Clay Court Championship in Houston, Texas, this week, and has lifted his ranking almost 50 spots in recent weeks. Though that's still down from 2021, he's playing a lot better on court.
"It was a tough year for me, I didn't play [a ton] of tournaments because I was dealing with on and off injuries. But this year, I feel like I'm really coming into form," the American told TENNIS.com, after beating Sam Querrey in straight sets in the second round of Houston. "I’ve been playing a lot of matches at the Challenger level, winning a lot of matches at that level. Definitely yesterday was another good win."
Those wins have included a semifinal in Cleveland, and the quarterfinal of Forli as a qualifier. They've also helped his motivation, which he says has been his biggest improvement this season.
"Honestly, the main thing was just mentality. Because of injuries, going into matches, I just did not have the right mentality," Mmoh said. "But especially like the match like yesterday [against Querrey], I was really hungry, really wanted the win."
Mmoh, who turned pro more than five years ago, has also kept improving his game.
"Six years ago, the main thing was to be more aggressive, and also now," he said. "I'm a very good athlete, I'm able to play at a high level, getting balls back and what not, but I think to elevate my game to the next level I wanna impose my will a little more and become more aggressive and work on my transition game."
At the 2021 Australian Open, he got to experience some of the next level, getting a good five-set win against Viktor Troicki, then playing Rafael Nadal. Mmoh lost in three sets, though still gained a lot from the experience.
"That was a tough match. I think, maybe, I was a little nervous going into the match," Mmoh said. "He definitely is super-aggressive—it's tough to be more aggressive than him.
"I definitely like to work on the point, and then if I get the opportunity, take it. I'm not going to force it if it's not there."
He was born in Saudi Arabia and started playing tennis when he was only three years old, and since 13, has used Florida for training. His father, Tony, was also an ATP player.
"My dad, he got me into the game. He got a racquet and taught me the game," said Mmoh, who got his first name and also one of his first sports from Michael Jordan. "Originally when I was a lot younger, I wanted to be a basketball player. Growing up in the Middle East, I played a lot of soccer."
After switching to tennis, his aim was to reach the top ranks of the game—and though it still is, Mmoh is currently looking to take smaller steps. Having broken into the Top 100 in 2018, he wants to get back there.
"Yeah, I definitely believe I can. Top 100, that's my goal. I would say I want to start off Top 100," he said.
Mmoh will next play against Nick Kyrgios, and wants to get his opponent moving. "His movement, especially on the clay, is still a little bit vulnerable," Mmoh noted.
"So I think if I can get him on the ropes, and expose his movement, that's going to favor me for sure. But if he gets a lot of looks, to just be aggressive, that's going to favor him."
The Australian, who got a wild card in Houston, defeated Tommy Paul to reach his first clay-court quarterfinal since 2018.