Challenger Q&A: Mmoh Cracks Top 100 With Tiburon Title
In 2016, it was Taylor Fritz. Last year, it was Frances Tiafoe. Now, a third member of the American #NextGenATP contingent has cracked the Top 100. Welcome to the club, Michael Mmoh!
On Sunday, the 20-year-old ascended to a career-high No. 96 in the ATP Rankings after taking back-to-back ATP Challenger Tour titles in Columbus and Tiburon. A 6-3, 7-5 victory over Marcel Granollers in the final of the Wells Fargo Tiburon Challenger sealed his fate, as Mmoh celebrated the biggest title of his young career.
The Florida resident finishes the month of September with an 11-1 record, scoring impressive wins over Granollers, Jordan Thompson, Ernesto Escobedo, James Duckworth and Christopher Eubanks, among many. Two years after finishing runner-up in Tiburon, he finally has his trophy at the $100,000 event.
Mmoh also moves up two spots in the ATP Race To Milan, rising to ninth place. Just two weeks ago, the 20-year-old was at No. 15 in his quest to qualify for the Next Gen ATP Finals. With Fritz and Tiafoe already in prime position to punch their tickets to the Fiera Milano, their countryman will be looking to make it an American trio at the tournament's second edition.
Back to back! @MichaelMmoh takes the title @TiburonChallngr , d. Marcel Granollers 63 75 for his second straight 🏆.— ATP Challenger Tour (@ATPChallenger) October 1, 2018
Champion in Columbus, champion in Tiburon. Welcome to the Top 100. pic.twitter.com/P2i3UggyEx
First of all, congratulations Michael. Top 100. What does that mean to you, in terms of this journey you've been on?
It's huge. It's something I've been eyeing ever since I started playing professional tennis. Honestly, ever since I started playing tennis in general. You always aspire to be a Top 100 player. It's the No. 1 goal when you're starting out as a professional. You're in a special area to be there. I've put in a lot of hard work and I'm really happy to win back-to-back Challengers as well. It's something I wasn't expecting from myself.
Let's talk about these two weeks. Columbus was indoors and it's weird to have an indoor event between two outdoor tournaments. Compare the court speed and bounces from last week to this week in Tiburon.
That's one of the reasons I wasn't expecting to go back-to-back, because I'm going from an indoor event to one where it's windy and super cold. In Columbus, it was actually pretty humid in the indoor courts. You're drenched after a match there and you come here and it's super cold and slow with low bounces. You have one day to prepare and you're traveling from the east time zone to the west. Plus, I played Darian King, a guy I've lost to twice before and then Tommy Paul in the quarters. It's tough. Those are really good players and to adjust on the fly and be mentally tough, I'm proud of myself for that.
You've given a lot of credit to Alexander Waske, your new coach. In terms of personality, Alex is very different from Glenn Weiner, your former coach. Compare and contrast the two.
They are completely different. It's black and white. Alex is a very different person from Glenn, but I think that helps in a way. It's almost like a spark, a big change. Glenn was unbelievable. He was a father figure to me. We spent so much time together. Four years. He's taught me so much, on the court and off the court. He's always been a big part of my life. To have a guy like that in your corner is huge. Alexander has been helping me a ton too. I feel like he's taken my game to the next level. But definitely, you couldn't find two more different guys.
How much has the focus for you guys been mental side versus tactical side?
It's definitely been a lot of tactical changes. Mental as well, but Alex is a very intense guy, so just his presence alone brings a lot of competitiveness and intensity to my game. That helps a lot, but the main change has been tactical. He's implemented a lot of plays in my game that have probably been my most successful shots these past two weeks. He's given me a better understanding of how to use my strengths.
During your match today against Marcel Granollers, I was thinking back to your final here two years ago against Darian King. That is, where you were then versus where you are now. There was a lot of athleticism to make balls, but there wasn't much intent with what you were doing. How do you view yourself now, compared to two years ago in this final?
I'm the same person, but definitely a completely different player. I was very composed today. If it was 2016 and I played a guy like Granollers, he would have been tougher than me mentally and I wouldn't have been able to compete with him. I wasn't that tough then, but now I went toe-to-toe with him mentally. I came in and even though I missed a couple volleys, I kept coming forward. That's the reason why I got the break in the second set. I came in at 15/30 and finished the volley. Back in the day, I didn't really do that. I waited for the guy to make mistakes and I relied on being an athlete and making a lot of balls. I still have that, but now I've added a new layer.
What does this mean for the last few months of the year for you? You will obviously get into Grand Slams no problem. That's huge, but it also allows you to get into a few more [ATP World Tour] 250s that you maybe hadn't planned on. Maybe you play qualies of a 500. How do you structure the last few months of your season, so you take advantage of that?
Right after the US Open, I was talking with my team and we didn't want to play Challengers for the rest of the year. But I think it's perfect now. I've won a ton of matches and I'm confident. I'm going to take that to the tour-level and I'll probably play Stockholm and Vienna and try to get into Paris. I'm really excited and I'm playing well and beating a lot of good players. If I can take that to the next level, it will be exciting.
And of course the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan. That must be on your mind as well.
Yeah, for sure. Munar has a lot of points, so it's going to be tough to catch up to him. But you never know. The way I'm playing, if I can take that level to the ATP World Tour, you never know. You can get a lot of points there as well.
You look on social media and there's Frances Tiafoe and Taylor Fritz celebrating your titles out here. It has to be a great motivation to see where they're at and know that you're just a little step behind.
It's super cool. Those are my buddies. I love those guys. When they're doing well and they're doing their thing, it motivates me. It motivates all of us: Me, Reilly, Tommy too. We're a really close group and I'm excited for the future.