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Thursday, June 2, 2011
Dreams can come true -- twice

By Sandra Harwitt

Like every little girl, Francesca Schiavone had big plans for her future: her dream was to win Roland Garros.

The dream came true, quite memorably, as she won the 2010 French Open. Now she has a chance to win her favorite Grand Slam twice. Schiavone moved into Saturday's final, when she'll play Li Na of China, after beating Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli 6-3, 6-3.

"I think because [it] is inspiration," said Schiavone, explaining her success at the French Open. "When I was young, I always dreamed [about] this tournament, so maybe [it] is coming from a long, long time ago. When I come here, I feel something special."

Schiavone, 30, vividly remembers coming to Roland Garros when she was younger, watching two greats, whose posters adorned her wall back home in Italy, play each other. She knew immediately that she wanted to be just like them.

"There was [a] big match, Steffi Graf against Monica Seles," she said. "I remember that I went there with the camera to take a picture. Every year before [I] come here, I go to [look at] that picture."

Kings of clay

Now that Rafael Nadal is into the semifinals and getting closer to possibly winning a sixth Roland Garros title, it's a good time to compare him with that other great French Open champion -- Bjorn Borg.

Nadal has won the title five of the six years he's played at Roland Garros, missing out only in 2009. Borg won the French in 1974, '75 and '78 through '81.

In his first six appearances at the French, Borg won four titles and put up a 35-2 record. Nadal won five titles with a 38-1 record coming into this year's event.

In sets won, Borg was 101-23, although best-of-three sets were played in the first and second rounds from 1973 through 1975. In contrast, Nadal is 128-12 in sets won going into the semifinals.

In straight set victories, Borg won 22, while Nadal is now at 35. Borg won four five-set matches here. Nadal recently won the first five-setter he's played at the French, against John Isner in the first round. In facing top 10 players, Borg won five and Nadal has won nine, including his victory over Robin Soderling on Wednesday.

Not Borg yet

His name is Bjorn but there's nothing Swedish about him at all.

Bjorn Fratangelo is a true-blooded American of Italian descent who hails from the not very tennis-crazed city of Pittsburgh.

The unseeded Fratangelo is the lone American in the French Open boys semifinals. He upset fourth seed Oliver Golding of Great Britain, 6-1, 6-1, in the quarterfinals Thursday. Fratangelo, 17, lives most of the year in Naples, Fla., where American green clay courts are more prevalent than hard courts.

"It feels great to be the last American standing on clay," Fratangelo said. "I feel great right now, feeling very confident and hoping tomorrow I can get another win. Once I moved to Florida three years ago, I did a lot of my training on the green clay. It's taught me how to move, how to slide, how to construct points better and play longer points. It's become my best surface."

Fratangelo came by his very Swedish first name because his dad and tennis coach, Mario, is a huge Bjorn Borg fan.

"He was my dad's idol and my dad still obsesses over him," Fratangelo said. "It's my name. It's kind of unique, so it's fine. It would be awesome to meet him [Borg]. What he's done in the game, the short career he had, winning 11 Grand Slams is unreal."

Fratangelo, however, has a different idol than his father -- Roger Federer.