Today is a little sad for us at The Tennis Nerds, because for the time being this will be the final portion of our hugely successful Question and Answer series. However, we are also very excited, because this may be our best one yet. Bjorn Fratangelo is a young American who is making strides in his game, and up the rankings. He was a very successful junior, and is now looking to translate that success onto the pro tour. His best results have come this year, and we are all behind him to make it to the top. His answers were awesome; they were articulate and thoughtful, and we would like to thank Bjorn again for doing this with us. Not only do we have great respect for him, we also are huge fans.
Player: Bjorn Fratangelo(USA)
Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA
Plays: Right-handed(2-handed backhand)
Q: You just reached your first ever Semifinal of a challenger in Campinas, Brazil. How has the transition been between futures and challengers and how much progress do you think you’ve made?
A: The transition to challengers from the futures has been a bit difficult for me. I played the whole US summer challenger circuit and didn’t make it out of qualifying. I felt I was playing well but I was playing huge servers and first ball strikers such as Chris Guccione and Fredrick Nielsen, so I never really was able to play real tennis. But all the matches were tight. I also played Sarasota where I was up a set and a break on Tim Smyczek. I felt like my game was right there, but I feel like I’m sustaining that higher level now. Campinas was definitely a small breakthrough for me.
Q: What part of your game has improved the most over the last year or so, and what is your biggest focus improvement-wise right now?
A: The biggest part of my game that has improved over the last year would have to be my fitness. I worked extremely hard last off season and throughout this year on getting stronger and faster. It has paid off big time. I’ve been injury free the whole year and I just feel better out on the court. My biggest focus right now is improving my serve and first ball ability. I love hitting my forehand and I want my serve to be a consistent shot that allows me to hit forehands immediately.
Q: You got a lot of press (deservedly so) after winning the French Open Juniors in 2011. Did you notice a change in the way you were handled or treated after that victory?
A: The French Open completely changed my life. It put me on the map as far as international tennis is concerned. I was always a top US junior but winning a grand slam, especially on clay, put me in a different category. Suddenly, I became a young American hope for the future. I think other players respected me a little more than before and my name became a bit more popular in the tennis world.
Q: Speaking of the French, a lot of your success has come on Clay. I often see you tweet about the US not being as bad as most say they are on that surface. Why do you like the surface so much and do you think the American men are improving on the red dirt?
A: Honestly, I like the red clay just because I think it’s cool(laughing). Ever since I was really little the French open was my favorite tournament to watch. I was obsessed with the color of the court because it looked so different and we don’t have any red clay courts in the US. I grew up playing on har-tru quite a bit and I became very comfortable on the surface. It just feels natural to play on. I think it’s more fun to play on clay. I also think other American men are really improving on the dirt. I know Kudla, Sock, And Williams all made it into the the main draw of Roland Garros this year. I watched John Isner take down Federer in the Davis cup tie on clay. Americans are making a push on clay and I think we’re only going to get better as the years go by.
Q: American Tennis has gotten a lot of negative attention the last couple years or so. You guys are basically judged solely on results. How does that affect you guys? Would positive media coverage change anything?
A: I don’t think any American player likes hearing people in the media talk about American tennis. It gets under my skin to hear some of the comments that are made and I know it makes some other Americans pretty angry too. We can’t help that pretty much four guys win every tour event out there. I know a couple months back, the media loved talking about how no American male was in the top 20 in the rankings. However, Isner was sitting at 21 that week. Tennis has become so global that other countries have been producing great athletes. In the next couple of years, you’re going to see American tennis back on top. Jack (Sock), Stevie (Johnson), and Denis (Kudla) have all cracked the top 100 this year and Rhyne (Williams) and Bradley Klahn are very close as well. Tennys Sandgren is another player in that group that is making a strong push and then following them is someone like Mitchell Krueger and myself. I think people in the media should definitely focus on the up and coming talent the US has and instead of focusing on “how bad” the state of American tennis is right now.
Q: What is something outside of tennis that most people don’t know about you?
A: Well, this was actually something I didn’t know about myself until I started living on my own.. I’m actually a decent cook. When I moved to Boca Raton last November, I was in my own in the food department. I’m Italian and I grew up with both of my parents constantly cooking. I’m not a huge fan of eating out, so when I moved into my apartment, I started cooking for myself, and I’m actually not bad at it. It’s surprisingly something I enjoy doing.
Q: What is your favorite tournament thus far in your career and what is the best restaurant at that tournament?
A: My favorite tournament obviously has to be the French Open. I have some awesome memories that’ll stay with me forever. My favorite restaurant is close to Arc De Triomphe. It’s an Italian restaurant. Sadly, I don’t remember the name of the place.
What a great end to a great series! Another thanks to all the guys for talking to us and giving us some great content! We won’t stop here though. We have big plans for the rest of this year and the start of 2014. Thanks to all of our readers, and if you don’t already, make sure you follow us on twitter so you don’t miss anything! @TheTennisNerds