Americans Mmoh and Desiatnikov Capture Junior Orange Bowl Titles; Lumsden, Oliel Post Historic Wins
by Colette Lewis
, 28 December 2012
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Seven days of beautiful South Florida weather at the 51st Junior Orange Bowl provided a perfect backdrop for three new champions and one champion collecting a second title. Michael Mmoh of the United States, the 2010 12s champion, added the 14s title to his resume, while Abigail Desiatnikov of the US, Maia Lumsden of Great Britain and Yshai Oliel of Israel received their first winner's bowl of oranges last Sunday in Coral Gables, Florida.
The top-seeded Mmoh, a 14-year-old who trains at the IMG Bollettieri Academy
, was heavily favored coming into the tournament, with an ITF junior 18-and-under ranking of 119 after an impressive fall on the international circuit. He dominated in his first six victories, losing no more than seven games in any match. But in the final, Mmoh was given a stern test before defeating No. 6 seed Marko Osmakcic of Switzerland 6-4, 7-5.
Mmoh had beaten Osmakcic 6-2, 6-0 in the round robin portion of the ITF World Junior Tennis 14-and-under championships in August that the US went on to win, but once Osmakcic shook off his nerves and recovered from a 5-1 first set deficit, Mmoh had a fight on his hands.
Osmakcic, hitting the ball with pace and depth, kept Mmoh on the defensive, getting an early break in the second set to build a 5-2 lead. Serving for the set at 5-3, Osmakcic was two points from forcing a third set at 30-0, but Mmoh raised his level, hitting a perfect backhand pass to get a break point, and immediately converting it, his big return of a good first serve forcing Osmakcic to net a backhand.
Once Mmoh held for 5-5, hitting an ace on game point, he could see the finish line.
"He tends to get a bit flustered," said Mmoh, who received a wild card into the tournament. "So I knew if I got back from 5-2 down to 5-all, he wouldn't be too strong mentally, and that was the case."
Mmoh broke in the next game, hitting another brilliant backhand pass, this of the dipping cross-court variety for 15-30, and then waited for Osmakcic to unravel, which he did, netting two forehands.
Serving for the match, Mmoh gave his opponent no hope, cracking an ace for 30-0, then getting another forehand error from Osmakcic to reach match point. He missed his first serve but hit a wicked kicker on his second, and Osmakcic couldn't get his return back in play.
"He was playing really well, hitting it flat and deep, so it was tough for me to get a rhythm," said Mmoh, who donned a Washington Redskins cap and T-shirt immediately after his win, showing support for the team he's been following since his childhood days in Maryland. "Hard courts suit him better, I think, because on clay (the surface of the World Junior Tennis competition), he hits so flat, it just dies."
With his second Orange Bowl title secure, Mmoh could reflect on the meaning of his first, two years ago, also as a wild card.
"Even though this is the same tournament, I feel like the 12s was almost a different title for me," said Mmoh, who is the son of former ATP player Tony Mmoh of Nigeria. "It gave me so much confidence, and I felt after I won that I could compete, play really well, at a high level. This year, I was kind of like the favorite, the one seed, and a couple of rounds I was pretty tight, but I'm really happy with the way I'm playing."
Next for Mmoh is the Australian Open Junior Championships, and he said he may try for the Orange Bowl 16s title next year, depending on how he performs in the big events on the ITF Junior Circuit in 2013.