FAIRFIELD, October 14, 2018
American Bjorn Fratangelo has his tennis game right where he wants it, and that might mean trouble for those on the ATP Challenger and USTA Pro Circuit right now.
The 25-year-old native of Pittsburgh took care of 19-year-old Casper Ruud of Norway with a decisive 6-2, 6-2 victory on Saturday in the semifinals of the $100,000 NorthBay Healthcare Men’s Pro Championship in Fairfield. He’ll now face Australian Alex Bolt on Sunday in the finals.
Fratangelo, now a resident of Orlando, needed just over an hour to take the match by winning four break points, cracking a solid serve and playing an attacking offensive style.
“(Ruud) is a very good counter-puncher but also an attacking player, more of the clay-court style,” Fratangelo said, “so I knew from the get-go I had to be offensive and take him off his game a little bit.”
Fratangelo is currently ranked 158th in the world and has been as high as 99th (2016). He was sidelined for a month this year after suffering a knee injury in Madrid. Fratangelo got a win in his opening match at the U.S. Open but lost in the second round. But his play has steadily progressed since, crediting the assistance of a new coach, Andres Alarcon of Bradenton, Fla.
“I started with him a few months ago,” Fratangelo said. “He’s really been able to get through to me in a positive way and also with some tactical things on the court.”
Fratangelo hasn’t dropped a set since he showed up in Fairfield and dominated on the Solano Community College courts. Australia’s John-Patrick Smith took the opening set off him to start the, but he has won six straight sets since. Fratangelo took nine straight games to open the match Saturday against Ruud as he cruised to the win.
Ruud, 137th in the world, had won his first two matches in straight sets before the loss to Fratangelo. He’s had a good year with short Grand Slam appearances at the Australian Open, the French Open and the U.S. Open. His appearance in Melbourne was the first by a Norwegian in 17 years.
Bolt beat fifth-seed Adrian Menendez-Maceiras of Spain. He won the first set 7-5 and was playing in a tiebreaker at 6-6 in the second set. But Menendez-Maceiras retired after dealing with some lower back pain in the match.
The 25-year-old Bolt is ranked 155th in the world. He knocked down 12 service aces and was very consistent on his first serve, hitting 39 not of 43.
Bolt was happy with the win but knew Menendez-Maceiras was hurting.
“Unfortunately for him, he had a bit of an injury,” Bolt said. “I felt like my level in the first set was very high and I dropped off a little in the second. So hopefully, I can kick that level back up for a long period (Sunday).”
Bolt was a quarterfinalist in doubles at the 2014 Australian Open and he has a doubles victory at the China International Challenger. The 32-year-old Menendez-Maceiras has nine Futures wins and four Challenger titles.
Doubles final is set
Harri Heliovarra of Finland and Henri Laaksonen of Suisun advanced to the doubles final with a 7-5, 6-4 win over American Robert Galloway and Roberto Maytin of Venezuela on Saturday. Heliovarra and Laaksonen will face Sanchai Ratiwatana of Thailand and Christopher Rungkat of Indonesia on Chris Cammisa Court. Ratiwatana and Rungkat defeated Marc-Andrea Huesler of Switzerland and Sem Verbeek of the Netherlands 6-4, 6-4 in the first semifinal contested on Friday night.
Heliovarra is ranked 193rd as a doubles player. He has eight career ITF Futures titles and won the 2007 Australian Open boys doubles title. Laaksonen is ranked 160th in singles.
The 36-year-old Ratiwatana is 123rd in the world. Ratiwatana has two doubles titles to his credit — in Bangkok in 2007 and Chennai in 2008 – with his twin brother Sonchat. Rungkat is ranked 100th in the world. He won a gold medal in mixed doubles at the 2018 Asian Games.
Tickets for Sunday’s two final matches are $15.