© Knoxville Challenger

Michael Mmoh claims his maiden ATP Challenger Tour title in Knoxville.

Mmoh Reacts To Winning First Challenger Title In Knoxville

Michael Mmoh sits down with USTA Pro Circuit broadcaster Mike Cation after winning the ATP Challenger Tour title in Knoxville

On Sunday, 18-year-old American Michael Mmoh claimed his maiden ATP Challenger Tour title, defeating Peter Polansky 7-5, 2-6, 6-1 in the Knoxville final. Mmoh, who soars 64 spots to a career-high No. 204 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, is the fourth different American teen to prevail on the Challenger circuit this year, joining Taylor Fritz, Frances Tiafoe and Reilly Opelka. The title comes on the heels of reaching his first final last month as a qualifier in Tiburon. It also marks the 12th time a teenager has won a Challenger title in 2016.

Congratulations, Michael. You turned things around in the third set after you struggled with an ab injury in the second. What was the difference there after you got that early break?
The first game in the third was huge, even though I was serving and it was just a regular hold. It gave me so much momentum. I was pretty down after my intensity dropped in the second set. I was feeling it in the legs and my abdominal was hurting too. In my mind, I wasn't prepared for the battle at that point.

My tactic was to slow it down and then pump it back up in the third set and that's why the first game was huge. I started going for my shots a little more and I played pretty well in the end.

That seemed to be a theme for you during the week. Once you go up a break, you open up a bit and play more freely.
Once I start matches, I know I can make it tough for them. I can make a lot of balls and that's always tough when you start off a match and the guy's not missing. You're getting into the rhythm and getting all the balls back. Once I get the break, I go for my shots and be a little more free. That's been working really well in the past few months. Obviously I could be a little more aggressive, but I'm happy with the way I'm playing.

American Teen Finalists In 2016

Player

Age
Tournament
Result
Taylor Fritz
18 yrs, 2 mos
Happy Valley (AUS)
Won title
Stefan Kozlov
18 yrs, 2 mos
Le Gosier (GP)
Runner-up
Frances Tiafoe
18 yrs, 3 mos
Tallahassee (USA)
Runner-up
Frances Tiafoe
18 yrs, 5 mos
Winnetka (USA)
Runner-up
Frances Tiafoe 18 yrs, 6 mos
Lexington (USA)
Runner-up
Frances Tiafoe
18 yrs, 6 mos
Granby (CAN)
Won title
Frances Tiafoe
18 yrs, 8 mos
Stockton (USA)
Won title
Michael Mmoh
18 yrs, 8 mos
Tiburon (USA)
Runner-up
Stefan Kozlov
18 yrs, 9 mos
Suzhou (CHN)
Runner-up
Stefan Kozlov
18 yrs, 9 mos
Columbus (USA)
Won title
Michael Mmoh
18 yrs, 10 mos
Knoxville (USA)
Won title
Reilly Opelka
19 yrs, 2 mos
Charlottesville (USA)
Won title
Jared Donaldson
19 yrs, 6 mos
Savannah (USA)
Runner-up
Ernesto Escobedo*
19 yrs, 10 mos
Sao Paulo (BRA)
Runner-up
*Escobedo won first Challenger title less than a month after turning 20 in July, in Lexington (USA)

Talk a little about the changes you and (coach) Glenn Weiner have made to your forehand that's gotten you to this point.
Well, it wasn't a huge change, but it made a huge difference. My swing had a little bit of a hitch and it was a little too big. At this level when they're hitting it hard and really pounding it, they will realize that your forehand is weaker and hit a lot of balls there. I was struggling big time with that. The small change I made was huge. It gave me an advantage with my shots. Now, I think I'm hitting it well. That small adjustment really turned my year around.

You've played a lot of tennis over the last couple of months. You have at least one more tournament, in Champaign, and are now in the lead for the Australian Open wild card. How you do approach Champaign?
I definitely want to do well next week and end the year Top 200. I'm pretty close and think I can get there. That's my main goal. If I win the Aussie Open wild card that's a big bonus, but I'm focusing on ending the year in the Top 200.

What was your goal at the beginning of the year and how did it change over the summer?
My goal at the beginning of the year was Top 150, maybe Top 200 was a little more realistic. When I got injured, that was erased and my only goal was to be around No. 250 at the end of the year. I'm really happy now and I hope I can make a push and end the year Top 200. I was not picturing that earlier in the year, especially after Binghamton when I lost 2 & 1 in the first round.

The big question: How are you going to celebrate?
Well, Champaign starts tomorrow, but we might drive to the University of Kentucky in Lexington along the way and see one of my best friends who goes there. I might have a nice dinner with him and treat myself.

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