Sunday, June 5, 2011
Bjorn Fratangelo ends U.S. drought
PARIS -- Bjorn Fratangelo became the first American boy since John McEnroe in 1977 to win the junior title at the French Open by defeating Dominic Thiem of Austria 3-6, 6-3, 8-6 Sunday.
The unseeded Fratangelo broke serve at 6-all when Thiem's backhand sailed wide. He clinched the victory and fell flat on the red dirt after the 14th-seeded Thiem hit a backhand return long on match point.
"I did well to hold my nerve at the end to close it out," the 17-year-old Fratangelo said.
Fratangelo, of Pittsburgh, began playing tennis as a 4-year-old and hopes to win major titles like McEnroe, who went on to win Wimbledon three times and the U.S. Open four times.
"It's amazing to follow in his footsteps," Fratangelo said. "Hopefully I'll be competing like him in the men's some day and win Grand Slams like he did."
Ironically, Fratangelo was named after Bjorn Borg because his father admired the Swedish champion, a main rival of McEnroe.
Americans don't have a strong reputation for playing well on the red dirt, but Fratangelo honed his skills on clay because there are few good hard courts where he lives.
"I learned really how to slide, how to move well on the surface," Fratangelo said. "It taught me to construct points. Coming from indoor tennis, they just slap the ball one, two, three, point's over.
"But on clay ... it's mental toughness. You really have to grind out the points long and hard, and you have to find other ways instead of just first-strike tennis."
Meanwhile, the ninth-seeded Ons Jabeur became the first Tunisian girl to win a junior Grand Slam title by beating No. 5 Monica Puig of Puerto Rico 7-6 (8), 6-1.
Jabeur saved five break points in the 11th game to force a tiebreaker in which she made an unforced error at 7-all to give Puig a set point. But Jabeur slammed two straight aces to lead 9-8 before wrapping up the set.
The Tunisian then moved into a 4-0 lead in the second set and won the match with a backhand drop shot.
"I don't like to play like girls, especially Russian girls," said Jabeur, the runner-up at last year's junior French Open. "I like to make different (shots), so drop shots and volleys and everything."