RELATED: 2013 Metropolia Orange Bowl homepage
By Pat Mitsch
PLANTATION, Fla. – If Michael Mmoh wasn’t holding a tennis racquet, you might figure him as a power forward or a tight end or, at least, an adult.
He’s 6-foot-2, weighs 188 pounds – and is just 15 years old. Fittingly, Mmoh powered his way into the quarterfinals of the Metropolia Orange Bowl International Tennis Championships on Thursday, overwhelming ninth-seeded Marcelo Zormann of Brazil, 6-3, 6-4, at the Frank Veltri Tennis Center.
Against a South American on green clay, Mmoh, seeded sixth in the boys' 18s draw, boomed a big serve, fired precision forehands from the baseline and mixed in the occasional drop shot to join fellow 15-year-old Americans Stefan Kozlov and Francis Tiafoe among the eight players remaining.
Mmoh may not yet be the favorite here – No. 1 Alexander Zverev of Germany, No. 2 Johan Sebastien Tatlot of France and No. 4 Kozlov of Pembroke Pines, Fla., are all seeded higher – but with his talent and physicality, Mmoh is barnstorming toward tennis stardom, much to the surprise of unknowing strangers who expect to find him on a different kind of court.
“A lot of people think I’m a basketball player,” Mmoh said, adding that even more people are surprised to hear he’s 15. “I love those sports, but I got into tennis, and I guess I’m good at it.”
It’s not by accident, either. Michael is the son of Tony Mmoh, a former pro tennis player who won a match for his native Nigeria in the 1988 Olympics. Michael first picked up a racquet while living in Saudi Arabia, where he was born, and chose to focus on tennis after the family moved to Temple Hills, Md., in the Washington, D.C., area, when Michael was a child.
Tony is also a strong, well-built man and passed those genetics down to his son. Michael originally dreamed of playing professional basketball and has recently acquired a football addiction, playing weekend pickup games that often involve tackling.
Now in his third year of training at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., where he works with coach Glenn Weiner, Mmoh says he’s beginning to do more strength work. He can serve up to 130 mph, and he likely hit that mark a few times on Thursday.
“I played really solid. I didn’t miss at all,” Mmoh said. “I was aggressive when I needed to be, and that paid off a lot.”
Tiafoe could probably say the same thing. Like Mmoh, the 15-year-old from College Park, Md., flashed a powerful serve and worked his backhand cross-court in an impressive 6-0, 6-3 victory over the No. 3 seed, Filippo Baldi of Italy.
“Everything was working," said Tiafoe, seeded 13th. "My backhand, I was hitting really well today. I think my forehand is the better shot, but I hardly hit any forehands today. I played very well today, but it’s also just one match. It’s an unbelievable win, but I have other matches to play.”
Two 15-year-old American girls also advanced to the 18s quarterfinals on Thursday. No. 3 seed Tornado Alicia Black of Boca Raton, Fla., earned a routine win over No. 13 seed Renata Zarazua of Mexico, 6-2, 6-2, while Sofia Kenin, from Pembroke Pines, Fla., overcame China’s Siqi Cao, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4.
In the boys’ 16s quarterfinals, both Sameer Kumar (Carmel, Ind.) and Eduardo Nava (Woodland Hills, Calif.) advanced to Friday’s semifinals, along with the top two seeds, Koreans Yunseong Chung (No. 1) and Chan-Yeong Oh (No. 2).
In the girls’ 16s draw, Alexis Nelson (St. Paul, Minn.) and Dominique Schaefer (Ventura, Calif.) earned their way into the semifinals, joining No. 4 Lisa Ponomar of Germany and No. 5 Charlotte Robillard-Millette of Canada.
In the boys’ 18s quarterfinals, Poland’s Kamil Majchrzak displayed admirable sportsmanship on Thursday, when his opponent, Japan’s Naoki Nakagawa, hit a shot that was called out by the chair umpire. Majchrzak, however, overruled the umpire and called the ball in. Nakagawa won the match, 6-3, 6-2.
See full results from Thursday’s matches below. For complete tournament information, including draws and order of play, visit www.orangebowltennis.org.
Boys' 18s Singles:
No. 1 Alexander Zverev, GER d. No. 16 Francisco Bahamonde, ARG, 6-2, 6-0
No. 2 Johan Sebastien Tatlot, FRA d. Reilly Opelka, USA, 6-3, 7-5
No. 13 Francis Tiafoe, USA d. No. 3 Filippo Baldi, ITA, 6-0, 6-3
No. 12 Andrey Rublev, RUS d. No. 5 Quentin Hayls, FRA, 4-6, 6-4, 6-1
No. 6 Michael Mmoh, USA d. No. 9 Marcelo Zormann, BRA, 6-3, 6-4
No. 7 Roman Safiullin, RUS d. No. 11 Lucas Miedler, AUT, 1-6, 7-5, 6-2
No. 8 Naoki Nakagawa, JPN d. No. 10 Kamil Majchrzak, POL, 6-3, 6-2
Boys' 18s Doubles:
No. 1 Andrey Rublev, RUS/Alexander Zverev, GER d. Omar Jasika, AUS/Rogelio Siller, MEX, 6-4, 6-2
No. 2 Filippo Baldi, ITA/Lucas Miedler, AUT d. Aron Hiltzik, USA/Catalin Mateas, USA, 6-3, 6-4
No. 3 Michael Mmoh, USA/Francis Tiafoe, USA d. Deiton Baughman, USA/Tommy Mylnikov, CAN, 7-5, 6-2
No. 4 Roman Safiullin, RUS/Nino Serdarusic, CRO d. Bogdan Borza, ROU/Nicolae Frunza, ROU, 6-4, 6-3
Stefan Kozlov, USA/Henrik Wiersholm, USA
d. No. 7 Seong Chan Hong, KOR/Ku Keon Kang, KOR, 6-0, 6-4
Hubert Hurkacz, POL/Marko Osmakcic, SUI
d. No. 8 Gabriel Vellinho Hocevar, BRA/Rafael Matos, BRA, 6-1, 6-4
Jordi Arconada, ARG/Tommy Paul, USA d. Taylor Fritz, USA/Logan Smith, USA, 6-3, 4-6 [10-7]
Julian Cash, GBR/Alexander Sendegeya, GBR d. Fajing Sun, CHN/Zhe Zhou, CHN, 6-3, 6-7(5) [10-8]
Girls' 18s Singles:
No. 1 Varvara Flink, RUS d. No. 14 Fanny Stollar, HUN, 6-7(2), 6-1, 6-2
No. 2 Ivana Jorovic, SRB d. No. 16 Isabelle Wallace, GBR, 7-5, 3-6, 6-1
No. 3 Tornado Alicia Black, USA d. No. 13 Renata Zarazua, MEX, 6-2, 6-2
No. 5 Marie Bouzkova, CZE d. No. 10 Anastasiya Komardina, RUS, 7-5, 4-6, 7-6(2)
No. 6 Ioana Ducu, ROU d. No. 12 Sandra Samir, EGY, 6-1, 6-2
No. 9 Akville Parazinskaite, LTU d. Jaqueline Adina Cristian, ROU, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4
Julia Terziyska, BUL d. No. 11 Jelena Ostapenko, LAT, 6-3, 7-6(7)
Sofia Kenin, USA d. Siqi Cao, CHN, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4
Girls' 18s Doubles:
No. 1 Varvara Flink, RUS/Ivana Jorovic, SRB d. Anna Bondar, HUN/Michaela Gordon, USA, 4-6, 6-3 [10-4]
Emilie Francati, DEN/Tereza Mihalikova, SVK
d. No. 3 Dasha Ivanova, USA/Katrine Isabel Steffensen, USA, 7-5, 6-3
Bianka Bekefi, HUN/Julia Terziyska, BUL
d. No. 4 Sandra Samir, EGY/Isabelle Wallace, GBR, 6-1, 6-2
No. 5 Naiktha Bains, AUS/Tornado Alicia Black, USA
d. Alexis Prokopuik, CAN/Luisa Stefani, BRA, 6-3, 7-5
Jaqueline Adina Cristian, ROU/Fanny Stollar, HUN
d. No. 7 Marie Bouzkova, CZE/Rebeka Stolmar, HUN, 7-6(7), 6-4
Sofia Kenin, USA/Kaitlyn McCarthy, USA
d. No. 8 Jil Belen Teichmann, Sui/Ilka Csoregi, ROU, 3-6, 7-6(5) [10-7]
CiCi Bellis, USA/Katerina Stewart, USA d. Gabriella Castaneda, USA/Lana Rush, GBR, 6-2, 6-1
Emma Higuchi, USA/Mira Ruder-Hook, USA
d. Valentini Grammatikopoulou, GRE/Katherine Sebov, CAN, 7-5, 6-2
Boys' 16s Singles:
No. 1 Yunseong Chung, KOR d. No. 9 Robert Levine, USA, 6-3, 6-2
No. 2 Chan-Yeong Oh, KOR d. Alfredo Perez, USA, 6-4, 6-3
Eduardo Nava, USA d. No. 7 Stefanos Tsitsipas, GRE, 7-6(3), 7-5
No. 16 Sameer Kumar, USA d. No. 8 Soon Woo Kwon, KOR, 6-2, 6-4
Boys' 16s Doubles:
No. 1 Yunseong Chung, KOR/Chan-Yeong Oh, KOR
d. No. 5 Dimitris Stavropoulous, GRE/Stefanos Tsitsipas, GRE, 6-4, 7-6(4)
William Genesen, USA/Soon Woo Kwon, KOR d. No. 7 Kalman Boyd, USA/Sameer Kumar, USA, 6-2, 7-5
Girls' 16s Singles:
No. 4 Lisa Ponomar, GER d. No. 6 Sofia Sewing, USA, 6-4, 7-6(2)
No. 5 Charlotte Robillard-Millette, CAN d. Jada Hart, USA, 6-4, 6-0
Dominique Schaefer, USA d. No. 7 Meghan Kelley, USA, 7-6(6), 4-6, 6-2
Alexis Nelson, USA d. No. 12 Nandini Das, IND, 7-5, 6-0
Girls' 16s Doubles:
Brienne Minor, USA/Jaclyn O’Brien Switkes, USA
d. No. 1 Lisa Ponomar, GER/Stephanie Nemtsova, USA, 6-4, 7-5
No. 3 Vanessa Wong, CAN/Charlotte Robillard-Millette, CAN
d. Ingrid Neel, USA/Dominique Schaefer, USA, 6-3, 7-6(0)
For more on junior tennis, and to find a kids' tennis program and facility near you, go to YouthTennis.com.