Rising American tennis star Michael Mmoh is upbeat about the growth of tennis in the USA as the sport continues to compete with basketball, in the form of the NBA, and football, in the form of the NFL. While Mmoh shared his honest opinion that the NBA and the NFL are too far up the ranks in terms of popularity in the States, he believes signs are only positive for tennis with players such as Frances Tiafoe inspiring the next generation of Americans.
Mmoh himself is one of the young men in the US who have already shown what they are capable of, and are now looking to emulate and even surpass the success of the likes of Tiafoe and American No. 1 Taylor Fritz. The 24-year-old is currently ranked No. 113 and closing in on the Top-100 again after a strong end to the 2022 season.
Mmoh, who began his 2023 season at the Tata Open Maharashtra, shared his thoughts on where tennis stands in the pecking order of American sports and the road ahead for tennis.
"I mean, definitely, it's gonna be tough to compete with like the NFL and NBA In the US," Michael Mmoh said in response to Sportskeeda, during a press conference after his opening round win in Pune, India.
"Those two sports are always just gonna be bigger. It's just the way it is…But definitely, I think tennis is going to continue to grow."
Mmoh stressed that his good friend Frances Tiafoe's brilliant run to the semifinals at the 2022 US Open came at a great time for American tennis, bringing more eyeballs to the sport and inspiring the next gen of American players. Another big success story of late is 20-year-old Ben Shelton, who cracked the ATP Top-100 last season without ever having played a tournament outside America.
Mmoh lauded Shelton's unique achievement, further highlighting that tennis' future growth in the country depends on the upcoming players having role models with inspiring achievements to look up to.
"What Ben did was amazing to be inside the top 100 without ever leaving the States. I don't know how many people have done that," Mmoh expressed.
"I think like, the more guys like Frances, or me, or Ben Shelton, or, you know, just more guys with like personalities that are coming up and just the younger generation to kind of look up to. I think Frances getting into the semis (at US Open) is going to inspire a lot of people."
"So hopefully we can continue to make results like that. And I think that will continue to grow the sport in the US."
"Right after he got to the semis, I kind of went on a roll" - Michael Mmoh on getting inspired by his friend Frances Tiafoe
Michael Mmoh himself is among those who found inspiration in Frances Tiafoe's 2022 US Open run. Since the US Open, Mmoh won two titles, reached another final, and a semi-final, in just seven tournaments on the Challenger Tour. The man from Bradenton, Florida credited some of his success to his close friend Tiafoe.
He now aims to close the gap on the likes of Tiafoe and Taylor Fritz.
"Right after he (Tiafoe) got to the semis, I kind of went on a roll. So I feel like part of that is due to, you know, just me being motivated by some of his success. So, you know, hopefully I can keep that going and continue to close the gap," Michael Mmoh expressed.
In his first ATP tour-level tournament since the Canadian Open in Washington DC in early August last year, World No. 113 Michael Mmoh reached the Round of 16 at the 2023 Tata Open Maharashtra. He started his campaign with a straight-sets win over Indian wildcard Manas Dhamne, before falling just short in a closely-contested match against World No. 54 Filip Krajinovic.