Thursday, October 6, 2011

Ex-Cal star makes hair-raising rise in rankings

   It isn't hard to find John Paul Fruttero at the $100,000 Sacramento Challenger.
   Let's face it. There aren't a whole lot of people with blue and gold spiked hair walking around the Natomas Racquet Club.
   "It started in April on my 30th birthday," the former Cal All-American said Wednesday after he and Raven Klaasen of South Africa knocked off top-seeded Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah of Colombia in the first round of doubles. "In the tennis world, that's pretty old. It's safe to say I was having a mid-life crisis. I lost in the first round four times in a row. I told the stylist in Tampa (Fla.) to do something crazy, change things up. ... It was light brown in Tampa, pretty tame. I asked for gray in China and got platinum blond."
   Fruttero switched to blue and gold in honor of his alma mater last week while he was at home in San Jose.
  "I'm very loyal to my school, and there are a lot of Cal supporters here," he explained. "You can't wear a (school) logo in your matches, so why not do something different?"
  With his new hairstyle, the doubles specialist has soared from No. 299 in the world to No. 136, one spot below his career-high last week. During his rise, he has won three tournaments and reached two finals and eight semifinals in tennis minor leagues.
   The right-handed Fruterro played Wednesday with tape on his right index finger to protect a ligament he strained during practice three months ago.
   "I'll try to get through the end of the year and take care of it in the offseason," Fruttero said.
   Fruttero has advanced to the Sacramento doubles final twice, in 2005 (the inaugural tournament) with Mirko Pehar and 2007 with Sacramento native Sam Warburg. Both partners have since retired.
   "It's always nice to play here," Fruttero said. "I always feel extra mojo and motivation playing near Cal. The tour is tough. Anytime you can play in front of family and friends, it's a breath of fresh air. You feel like it's not just yourself."
   Fruttero missed almost two years after the 2007 Sacramento Challenger after testing positive for the banned substance Modafinil at the Aptos Challenger in July that year. He argued that his doctor had prescribed the drug under its brand name -- Provigil, which was not on the banned list -- to combat jet lag.
   A tribunal accepted Fruttero's explanation but ruled he was still responsible. His suspension was reduced from two years to 14 months, and he returned to Cal to get his bachelor's degree in American studies.
   "I still have pretty strong ties there," he said. 

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