Michael Mmoh was born and raised in Saudi Arabia, the son of a Nigerian former tennis player and an Irish-Australian nurse, and named after basketball legend Michael Jordan.
He could have represented any of those countries but elected to play instead for the United States, where he is part of an emerging brigade of youngsters looking to end the country's male grand slam drought, which stretches all the way back to Andy Roddick's US Open win in 2003.
Mmoh, alongside the likes of Taylor Fritz, Jared Donaldson and Frances Tiafoe, was part of a group of six Americans aged 20 and under in the year-end top 200. The last time the US had more than that was in 1991, with a pack that included future major champions Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Jim Courier and Michael Chang.
Mmoh insists having so many fellow young Americans doing well helps the group push each other on. "We're best friends. It's very interesting because we're great friends but competitors at the same time, so we face the very difficult task of playing against one another," he says.
"We have to put the friendship aside, and play our best tennis. It's not the prettiest but we do a good good job of separating the two. We motivate each other and someone like Tiafoe is pushing me to do better but I might do better than him in the future so it's all good for us.”
Are Americans burdened by the lack of slam champions in the last 14 years? "We're aware of it," Mmoh replies. "But it's up to us to end that. I'm not thinking about that – I want to do best for myself and if that means doing well for the US then that's a bonus."
Despite his international upbringing and background, Mmoh says he "never thought about playing for another country" having moved to America when he was 12 years old to train at the famed IMG Academy, founded by the legendary coach Nick Bollettieri. Mmoh does, though, have fond memories of spending Christmases in County Monaghan, Republic of Ireland – "I remember going to the farms and I particularly remember the strong accent," he says, laughing.
After spending his youth playing on shoddy courts in Riyadh, Mmoh reached the final of the prestigious Eddie Herr competition in Florida and was promptly offered a scholarship by IMG. The academy has produced 10 world No 1 players including Courier, Agassi and Monica Seles, and there is hope that Mmoh could be the latest in a long line of slam champions from the academy.
Mmoh has just turned 19 and after a strong end to last year that included winning the Challenger in Knoxville and breaking into the world's top 200, he was offered a wildcard to next week's Australian Open.
Mmoh, ranked 195, will begin in Melbourne against French No 25 seed Gilles Simon, and will look to flummox the Frenchman with a playing style that is a curious mixture of the powerful serving of his idol Andy Roddick and the athleticism of world No 1 Murray.
The American says of his game: "I play a bit like Roddick – big server, play smart, good athlete – we can definitely run a lot of balls down and make life tough for our opponents."
The ability to run pretty much everything down has drawn comparisons with Murray, who as a youngster would infuriate his opponents with his durability but then ran into trouble when his defensive tactics became limiting on the main tour.
Mmoh has been on a similar journey, and admits that playing more aggressively has been the focus for him and his coach Glenn Weiner (Kei Nishikori's former coach). Mmoh’s father Tony (a former world No 105) is also always available to lend guidance.
"I've been working on it for a while now, but it's a process," Mmoh says.
"It's not going to click overnight but I feel my game is slowly progressing towards that direction. Being a more aggressive and dangerous player overall is what's happening.
"I don’t instinctively play defensively but it's one of my big strengths – how fast and athletic I am on a tennis court so naturally I use those strengths, and sometimes too much.
"If I wasn't as fast, it would be a completely different scenario. It's about balancing it out – having the aggressive game, and the defensive one when I need it. Being a complete tennis player is the aim."
So, how good is Mmoh? He was humbled in straight sets by then world No 55 Jeremy Chardy at the US Open, but has since worked on how to dictate points more, including by shortening his forehand swing to give it more pop, and has almost halved his ranking from 385 to 195.
"Michael is one of the most athletic people you will ever see on a tennis court," says his fellow American Reilly Opelka, aged 19 and ranked 207. "There is nothing he can't do out there."
The tennis analyst Craig O’Shannessy says: “He has a huge game. When you can dictate like he can, then there is no ceiling.
“The physicality of his baseline game reminds me of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. The ability to play through opponents is a huge asset, as most matches will be settled on his racket as his game develops.”
His coach Weiner, admits: “I've had moments where I’ve gotten goosebumps, like I had with Kei. As a base player he is top 50 material. That’s if he doesn’t make a big jump or have that big improvement. That’s how good he is naturally. If he keeps improving, which he is hungry to do, and he believes he can beat anyone and own every shot then he will win major tournaments, and be in the top 10 in the world.”
The journey to the summit continues in Melbourne next week, and Mmoh will be backed by a vociferous group of family members who live in Australia. Mmoh himself is an Australian citizen, and says: “The Australian Open was the first major I watched as a kid aged six or seven. It was very special, I always pictured myself being one of the players competing when I was young.
“My ambition is to do better than at US Open, and at least win one match.”
Beyond next week, Mmoh says: “My aim for this year is to make the top 100. My aim for 2016 was the top 300 and I got top 200, so I’m confident. In five years I definitely want to be in top 10.”
The whole of America, plus pockets of Nigeria, Australia, Saudi Arabia and Ireland, are rooting for him.
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