At Sunday’s Junior Orange Bowl tennis finals, four champions were crowned, including two Americans.
But that U.S. duo of Michael Mmoh and Abigail Desiatnikov is vastly different from each other in physicality, personality and beyond.
Mmoh, the top seed in the boys’ under-14 division, defeated sixth-seeded Marko Osmakcic of Switzerland, 6-4, 7-5, rallying from a 4-1 deficit in the second set.
“Even when I was down, I always thought I could rally my way back,” Mmoh said. “Once it got to 5-5, I figured it would be difficult for [Osmakcic] to regain his momentum.”
Desiatnikov defeated Ukraine’s Dayana Yastremska, 7-5, 7-5, rallying from a 4-3 deficit in the first set. In the second set, Yastremska led 4-2 and also had an opportunity to serve out the set, up 5-4.
“I got off track,” Desiatnikov said of the second set. “I was just slapping the ball, and it was going deep, wide and in the net. I told myself, ‘Keep the ball in.’ I didn’t want it to go three sets.”
None of her five matches this past week went the extra set, and the same can be said for Mmoh.
But that’s where the similarities end.
Mmoh is 14 but probably looks 19 with his imposing 6-1 frame and a mature demeanor. He won the Junior OB 12s tournament two years ago and admitted that his earlier experience was the bigger thrill because it was new to him back then.
Desiatnikov turns 12 next month, but probably looks and acts a couple years younger because of her tiny stature (4-11, 85 pounds) and her precocious personality.
When asked about winning the Junior OB on her first try, she practically yelped in the middle of her answer.
“It feels — aaaahhhh! — awesome,” she said.
Mmoh, who was born in Washington and now trains in Bradenton, lived in Dubai for a while and is the son of a former pro tennis player from Nigeria.
Desiatnikov, who was born and raised in Cleveland, is the daughter of two parents who were born in the Soviet Union, although neither played tennis beyond high school.
Mmoh speaks only English. Desiatnikov speaks “a little Russian” but was heard shouting “davai,” which means “come on” in her parents’ language.
Mmoh said his next stop would be playing the juniors division of the Australian Open in January.
Desiatnikov, meanwhile, will start competing in the 14s, continuing what has been an amazing run since she first picked up a racket at age 2.
“When I was 3,” she said, “I could hit nine balls in a row off the wall. I loved it so much. I want to be a pro.”
On Sunday, Desiatnikov’s serve was one area where she saw room for improvement.
“Oh my gosh,” she said. “What was it — 10 double faults?”
Still, she came out on top against an opponent who was about four inches taller than her.
“I’m actually glad I’m tiny because I can get to the low balls,” Desiatnikov said. “I played this really big girl once, and she underestimated me. But I beat her — bam, bam, bam! It was power, power, power! I love being little.”
• In the girls’ 14s, eighth-seeded Maia Lumsden of Scotland defeated 17th-seeded Gabriella Taylor of England, 6-3, 7-5. It was the first All-Great Britain final in Junior OB 12s and 14s history.
• In the boys’ 12s, Israel’s Yshai Oliel beat Aruba’s Patrick Sydow, 6-3, 6-1, on the clay courts at Salvadore Park. Oliel is the first boy from Israel to win the Junior OB in the 12s or 14s.