FAIRFIELD, October 15, 2018
What a difference a few months make for American Bjorn Fratangelo, who dominated the field at the $100,000 NorthBay Healthcare Men’s Pro Championship and won his first title in two years.
Fratangelo rolled to a 6-4, 6-3 win over eighth-seed Australian Alex Bolt in the ATP Challenger Series and USTA Pro Circuit event. The Pittsburgh native and current Orlando, Fla., resident was working his way back from a knee injury he suffered in Madrid just months ago.
That rehab appears to be now complete. On the courts at Solano Community College in Fairfield, Fratangelo won every match in straight sets, culminating in the top prize of $14,400. It was his first win since the Savannah Challenger on clay courts in Georgia in 2016.
“This is very special to me,” Fratangelo said. “It’s probably my most emotional win. If someone had told me in June I was going to win another Challenger, I probably would have laughed and said you’re crazy. I’m feeling a lot better than I did three months ago.”
Fratangelo showed a powerful array of angled shots and a strong serve. He moved Bolt from corner to corner with an offensive, attacking style. He netted a key service break in the first set that put him up 4-3 that helped lead to his win in the first set. Fratangelo did it again in the second set to go up 3-2 and won the match on another break.
It was an entertaining match from two standout players before a big crowd, both in the seats and also watching online around the world. Fratangelo was ranked 158th in the world and Bolt was 155th.
Bolt matched his game at times but had some abdomen pain on the right side of his body that required some medical treatment. He didn’t use it as an excuse, though, and praised the game of Fratangelo.
“I don’t think it’s the reason I lost,” Bolt said. “Bjorn came out there lights out from the get-go. Every time there was a big point he stepped up and played it better than I did.”
Fratangelo won the 2011 French Open boys singles title, one of only three Americans to do so. He also competed this year at the U.S. Open, winning one match and falling in the second round. Bolt, meanwhile, has a strong background in doubles, reaching the quarterfinals of the 2014 Australian Open and winning a Challenger in China.
Bolt is immediately flying out to Calgary for the next Challenger this week. Fratangelo will take two weeks off before playing in the United States at Charlottesville, Va.
“He’s got a strong lefty game, so it was tricky at first,” Fratangelo said of Bolt. “Once I got comfortable, I started to find my stride.”
Sanchai Ratiwatana/Rungkat take doubles title
In doubles, top-seed Sanchai Ratiwatana of Thailand and Christopher Rungkat of Indonesia won the title by beating Harri Heliovaara of Finland and Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland 6-0, 7-6(9). It earned Ratiwatana and Rungkat $6,200 in prize money.
The two doubles sets in the match played out very differently. Ratiwatana and Rungkat dominated the first set with their powerful net volley game and won virtually every point. But in the second set, the duo got down 3-0 before rallying back to make it 6-6 and force the tiebreaker. Both teams battled hard in the tiebreak before Ratiwatana and Rungkat came away with the 11-9 difference.
“We got off to a great start and won all the deciding points,” Rungkat said. “In the second set, they started to play better and raise the level of their game. We eventually got the momentum and I’m glad we were able to handle the pressure in the tiebreak.”
Ratiwatana and Rungkat have played together the last three weeks and once prior. Ratiwana, ranked 160th in the world, previously had played with his twin brother Sonchat and they have won titles in Bangkok (2007) and Chennai (2008). Sanchai said his brother Sonchat has dialed back his game and is focused now on his young family.
“It’s not so hard playing them him,” said Sanchai Ratiwatana on playing with Rungkat. “We practice together and we’ve known each other so long. It’s easier for me to play with him because he is similar to my brother.”