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Fratangelo wins first pro singles championship

| Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013, 9:07 p.m.

Bjorn Fratangelo became a tennis professional last April, and since then, the Plum native searched for his first singles tournament victory on the International Tennis Federation Men's Pro Circuit.

He felt the satisfaction of a doubles win at a USA Futures event in October, but a solo title eluded him through the end of the 2012 season and at the beginning of 2013.

But that all was laid to rest on Sunday, as Fratangelo put it all together and captured the top spot at the Audi Pembroke Pines Weston Futures, the third USA Futures tournament of the young season.

He won five matches in the main draw and capped the event with a three-set triumph over Belgium's Arthur DeGreef, 6-4, 3-6, 6-0, on the clay surface at the Midtown Athletic Club in Weston, Fla.

“I felt really good the whole week,” Fratangelo said. “The conditions suited my game well. The courts were bouncing pretty high. I was moving pretty well and hitting my shots. I was serving well, and everything just came together this week.”

He pocketed $1,400, the winner's take of the $10,000 purse.

Fratangelo, who turned 19 in July, punched his ticket to the finals with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 semifinals win over American Robby Ginepri.

The victory avenged a semifinals loss to Ginepri at the previous Futures tournament on Jan. 19 in Sunrise, Fla.

Ginepri, 30, currently is ranked 286 in the world. He reached a career-best ranking of 15 in February 2006 and made it to the semifinals of the 2005 U.S. Open before falling to Andre Agassi in five sets.

“Being able to beat him a week later in the same round was a good feeling,” Fratangelo said.

“I remember watching his match with Agassi on TV. To play him was a little bit surreal, but to get the win felt even better. Playing him this week as compared to last week, I knew his game and what he liked to do and what was working for him against me (in the first meeting). I just tried to counter that and was able to do a good job at that.”

Fratangelo said the past nine months since turning pro has given him a new appreciation for the game.

“I feel fortunate to be doing what I am doing,” he said.

“Having the junior success I had kind of put some pressure on me to do well and climb up the ladder pretty quickly. But that doesn't always happen. I definitely learned a lot in this first year.”

Fratangelo said he benefited from a positive offseason of work in Boca Raton, Fla., and he has a job for the United States Tennis Association.

His offseason lasted just over a month, from his final 2012 tournament Nov. 18 to the start of the new season with a Futures event on Jan. 8 in Plantation, Fla.

After a week visiting family and friends in Plum for Thanksgiving, he was right back in Florida working on his game.

“The offseason was probably the hardest thing I've ever done in my life,” Fratangelo said.

“Physically, I feel as fit as I've ever felt in my life. The coach I'm working with now has had a couple of good talks with me about taking things in stride and that things don't happen overnight. He said success will come with work, and work with come with success. I'm doing that now, and I think I have a better understanding of how to approach each day. Things have been working really well so far this year.”

Fratangelo is gunning for two tournament wins in a row this week at the USTA Pro Circuit Men's Futures event in Palm Coast, Fla.

He began play Wednesday, and the five-round tournament wraps up Monday.

Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at mlove@tribweb.com.

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