At the age of 13, he tagged a serve at 130 m.p.h. under the eye of a radar gun at the prestigious European junior tournament, Les Petits As. He won Orange Bowl championships in two youth divisions (12 and 14), battling the likes of friends that included Frances Tiafoe and Reilly Opelka. He made his US Open main draw debut at age 18, by which time his name—Michael Mmoh—was on the lips of many pundits and fans. By 20, he cracked the Top 100 of the ATP rankings.
With his rangy athleticism and booming serve, the experts said, Mmoh could very well be the Next Big Thing. But seemingly overnight he turned into the Next Broke Thing, a bum right shoulder in 2019 halting his progress toward stardom.
Mmoh is back on the radar now, thanks to a rehabilitated shoulder joint and a replenished serve that helped the 6-foot-2, 24-year-old Florida resident beat out the likes of Jack Sock and Steve Johnson to earn the USTA’s 2022 Roland Garros wild card.
“He’s got the physique to be a hell of a player,” NIck Bollettieri, founder of the famed academy (Now officially the IMG Tennis Academy), told me recently. Mmoh has lived or trained at the academy (sometimes both) since the age of 15. Although 91 now, Bollettieri continues to track Mmoh’s progress. “He’s beginning to believe again,” Bollettieri said. “I try to help him believe he is special. He has a big serve, a big everything.”
Well, almost everything. Mmoh has been denied a critical element in the early stages of any tennis career—continuity. In 2018, Mmoh was developing right along with peers like Tiafoe, Opelka, Taylor Fritz and Tommy Paul. His results that season earned him direct acceptance into upcoming main tour events, a significant step up from journeyman status. But before Mmoh could build on his momentum his shoulder gave out. The official diagnosis was “dynamic instability,” caused by trauma to the tissue and tendons surrounding the joint.
The options were surgery or four or five months of intensive rehab—with no guarantee of success. Mmoh elected the latter.
“It was brutal,” Mmoh told me recently. “Probably the worst time for something like that to happen.”