Facing Novak Djokovic
March 15, 2016
Bjorn Fratangelo, one of the country's top young players, turned pro in 2012 and since then has won nine USTA Pro Circuit and ITF-level singles titles. As a junior, the 22-year-old Pittsburgh native reached No. 2 in the ITF World Junior Rankings and became the first American since John McEnroe in 1977 to win the French Open boys’ singles title. Fratangelo, who is named after tennis legend Bjorn Borg, just completed an exciting run at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif., where he qualified into the main draw, defeated No. 48 Teymuraz Gabashvili in the first round and then took a set from Novak Djokovic in his second-round match. Bjorn shares his thoughts on playing the world No. 1 in his final blog from Indian Wells.
Wednesday, March 14, 2016
What’s up everybody? This is my last blog post to conclude everything from the past week, which was amazing! It is really the only word I can use to describe it. ADVERTISEMENT To qualify for a 1000 event, win my first round over a Top 50 opponent and to play who I consider to be one of the top two players ever, it was something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.
The whole day I was so nervous. Playing on the second biggest court in the world was a bit scary to think about. A lot of things were going through my head, including hopefully not getting embarrassed in front of a packed stadium on international TV.
I woke up very early in the morning to get a light practice in on center court before the other players who had matches before me started their warm ups. It wasn’t so much about getting more reps out there but more to get used to the surroundings. You see a ton of seats as you're hitting the ball, and there are electric screens everywhere and more space on the court than you know what to do with. Anyway, after that practice, I went to breakfast with my coach Brad and Gabriel. Then, I waited.
Once my match time was getting closer, I started my pre-match routine with another light hit, shower and a snack. As time was getting close, I was getting extremely tense. But as I was about to walk on court, Gabriel said some final words to me that immediately calmed me down. I’m not going to say what he said, but they were just a couple of words that stuck in my head for the rest of the night.
OK, so then the match starts, and it all feels a bit surreal. I win the first point by hitting a return that dribbles over the net, and I’m like, “Great start, Bjorn. Twenty-three more of those, and the set is yours.” Then came 0-30, 0-40, "Game, Fratangelo," and I’m thinking, “Whaaat? Did I just break the No. 1 player in the world at love? Yeah, I did!”
I felt very settled in from the beginning, and I won’t lie. I think we all knew he helped me get a double-break lead. He was clearly a bit out of sorts, but I was up 4-0 against Novak Djokovic! I couldn’t hear the crowd, I was so focused. All I could see was the ball. In between points, I looked at the ground. I rarely looked at Novak because I just couldn’t wrap my head around what was happening out there. I took the first set.
However, like he often does, he showed me and everyone watching why he’s No. 1. He locked it in, got on top of me early, but I never felt overwhelmed. I was in most points. Most of them were physical, and I was staying with him toe-to-toe. I may have lost the next two sets, 6-1, 6-2, which sounds like a beating, but anyone who looked at the match would tell you otherwise. I hung in there and fought till the last point as best as I could, and I know everyone appreciated that. I feel like most players walk on the court already defeated when they play him. I couldn’t let myself do the same.
As I walked off the court, the applause I received was louder than anything I’ve ever heard. I had goosebumps as I looked up and waved to the stadium crowd, exiting to the tunnel into complete silence. I walked into the locker room with the players who were still there nodding at me, as if to say, “Good fight, dude.” I think I gained some respect in the locker room. But it’s when I took out my phone that everything hit me. I had about 60 text messages and about 80 social media notifications. I made sure to reply to each and every text. That was awesome.
All in all, it was a great experience. Thank you to everyone who supported me out there. I can’t tell everyone enough how much it really means to me.
Till next time,