PG East: Plum youth continues success on tennis courts
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At birth, he was given the name Bjorn, after Swedish tennis great Bjorn Borg.
By age 3, Bjorn Fratangelo had a tennis racket in his hand.
And now at age 16, Fratangelo, a Plum native, is the No. 3-ranked tennis player in the country for his age, and fresh off a championship at the USTA Clay Court National Championships for the boys 16-and-under division at Delray Beach, Fla.
Fratangelo, the top tennis talent in the area for his age group, returned to Western Pennsylvania after spending his freshman year at Barron Collier High School in Florida. With a heavy traveling schedule with various international tournaments around the country, Fratangelo will be home schooled for the upcoming school year.
"I am going to miss regular high school," said Fratangelo who attended St. John the Baptist School in Plum up until eighth grade. "But with tennis, there is so much to do that you don't even think about it."
This week Fratangelo is competing in the USTA Boys' 16 National Championship in Kalamazoo, Mich., the biggest tournament of the year for Fratangelo. The winner of the championship gets an invitation to the Junior U.S. Open and Fratangelo said that was his goal this year.
Bjorn's father, Mario Fratangelo, had a promising tennis career of his own. It took a setback when he moved to the United States from Italy when he was 12. The language barrier set him back a few years, but once he stopped playing, Mario quickly got into coaching and he has served as Bjorn's coach for his entire career.
"My belief is the younger you start the game, the better off obviously you are going to get the feel of that particular sport," Mario Fratangelo said.
"This country has so much to offer. There is so much talent out there with kids. My favorite tennis player was always [Bjorn] Borg. He let his game do the talking. A lot of other kids who I coach today I tell them shut up and hit the ball."
Mario was especially proud of his son's performance at the clay tournament in Florida because of the conditions.
"I never try to inflate the ego. I try to keep him grounded," Mario Fratangelo said.
"The bottom line is, it was a heck of a tournament for him. The temperatures were unbearable."
Even though he will only be a sophomore in the fall, Bjorn Fratangelo has already landed on the radar of some of the top college tennis programs in the country.
Duke, Georgia, Ohio State, Penn State, Stanford, UCLA and USC are among the schools that have expressed interest in Fratangelo.
First Published August 13, 2009 12:00 am