Saturday, October 13, 2018

Rejuvenated Fratangelo to face Aussie in Fairfield final

Unseeded Bjorn Fratangelo routed sixth-seeded Casper Ruud, a 19-year-old
Norwegian, 6-2, 6-2 today to reach the final of the $100,000 Fairfield (Calif.)
Challenger at Solano Community College. Photo by Paul Bauman
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   FAIRFIELD, Calif. — Bjorn Fratangelo reached a low point after losing in the first round of a $75,000 Challenger in Winnetka, Ill., in July.
   Fratangelo had been playing well in clay-court tournaments on the ATP World Tour, the major leagues of men's tennis, in the spring when he tore a quadriceps muscle while leading by a set in the first round of qualifying in Madrid.
Eighth-seeded Alex Bolt of Australia celebrates
during his victory over fifth-seeded Adrian Men-
endez-Maceiras of Spain. Photo by Paul Bauman
   After sitting out for one month, Fratangelo lost three consecutive matches on grass in Europe, fell in the second round of Wimbledon qualifying and lost early on a hardcourt in the Chicago suburb of Winnetka.
   With his motivation sagging, Fratangelo hired Andres Alarcon as his new coach. Fratangelo continued to struggle through U.S. Open qualifying but since then has gone 13-4. Unseeded, he routed sixth-seeded Casper Ruud, a 19-year-old Norwegian, 6-2, 6-2 in 65 minutes today to reach the final of the $100,000 NorthBay Healthcare Men's Pro Championship at Solano Community College.
   "It was a tough first, really, three-quarters of the year," said Fratangelo, a Pittsburgh native now based in Orlando, Fla. "I'm starting to find my stride now, so hopefully I can take this form into the rest of the year and on to next year.
   "I have a lot more clarity in myself and my game. (Alarcon) has really been able to help me and get through to me in a positive way and also with some tactical things on the court. We're really starting to click right now, and it's showing."
    Alarcon has helped Fratangelo primarily with his mental approach.
   "He's more confident on the court," said Alarcon, a 48-year-old U.S. citizen from Ecuador. "He's getting more excited playing; he has more motivation. That's the main thing I'm working with him on. His tennis is there. He's in a good place now."
   Alarcon added that Fratangelo, a semifinalist in the ATP grass-court tournament in Newport, R.I., last year, "put the work in. If you put the work in, it's easy to get back where you belong."
Casper Ruud reached the second round of the Australian Open
(in his Grand Slam debut) and French Open this year. Photo
by Paul Bauman
   Fratangelo, who was named after Bjorn Borg, will face eighth-seeded Alex Bolt of Australia on Sunday not before 2 p.m. in a matchup of 6-foot (1.83-meter) 25-year-olds. Bolt, a left-hander, led fifth-seeded Adrian Menendez-Maceiras of Spain 7-5, 6-6 (5-0) when the 32-year-old Menendez-Maceiras retired with a right leg injury.
   It will be Fratangelo's first final since losing to U.S. veteran Tim Smyczek in a $75,000 indoor tournament in Champaign, Ill., last November.
   Fratangelo, ranked No. 158, and Bolt, ranked a career-high No. 155, have split two career matches, both in 2015. Bolt won 6-3, 6-2 on a hardcourt, and Fratangelo prevailed 6-4, 7-6 (5) on clay.
   Fratangelo, who beat current world No. 7 Dominic Thiem to win the 2011 French Open boys singles title and climbed to a career-high No. 99 in June 2016, rifled serves and groundstrokes against Ruud and never faced a break point in their first career meeting. From 2-2 in the opening set, Fratangelo broke serve four consecutive times to lead 6-2, 4-0 as Ruud's father, former top-40 player Christian Ruud, watched from the stands.
   Fratangelo, who ousted top-seeded Jordan Thompson of Australia 6-1, 6-4 on Friday, said the 137th-ranked Ruud, who reached the second round of the Australian Open (in his Grand Slam debut) and French Open this year, "is a very good counterpunching but also attacking player, more of a clay-court style. I knew from the get-go I had to be offensive and take him off his game a little bit, and, again, I think I did it to perfection."
Adrian Menendez-Maceiras retired with a leg injury
while trailing 0-5 in a second-set tiebreaker. Photo
by Paul Bauman
   Very little separated Bolt, a two-time Australian Open doubles quarterfinalist, and Menendez-Maceiras, a world-class grunter ranked No. 132, until the tiebreaker in their first career encounter. Bolt saved two consecutive break points with aces to hold for 6-5 in the first set and then recorded the only break of the match, at love, as Menendez-Maceiras appeared to lose focus after repeatedly complaining about line calls.
   After Bolt held for 2-1 in the second set, Menendez-Maceiras took a medical timeout to have his leg treated. He did not appear to hurt the leg in the match but favored it after taking the timeout.
   Bolt, who came within two points of losing to 22-year-old wild card Collin Altamirano of Sacramento in the second round, pounded 12 aces and won 39 of 43 points (91 percent) on his first serve.
   "Against a guy like Adrian, it's always going to be a tough battle," said Bolt, who won a $75,000 tournament in Zhuhai, China, in March for his second career Challenger title. "He's always going to fight until the last point. Unfortunately for him, he was battling a bit of an injury.
   "I felt my level was very high in the first set and dropped off a little bit in the second set. I feel I can keep that level high tomorrow for a long period of time."
   Here are the Fairfield singles and doubles draws and Sunday's schedule. The tournament is being streamed live.

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