Fruttero pays his dues

David W. Unkle and Patrick Williams -- Special to SLAM! Sports

, Last Updated: 12:07 PM ET

PHILADELPHIA -- Radnor, Pennsylvania and Cabrini College seems like an unlikely destination for John Paul Fruttero compared to some of the more exotic places on his itinerary. To date, the 6-1, 170-pound heart-throb has played tournaments on four continents, with three separate junkets to South America.

Fruttero, the work-horse for the Philadelphia Freedoms of World TeamTennis and currently ranked 317th in the world in men's singles, deals with unparalleled logistical aspects compared to players in other sports.

Players like Fruttero are responsible for making (and paying for) travel and lodging arrangements, a task not asked of athletes in baseball, football, basketball, and hockey. "I look at it as paying your dues," said Fruttero. "You work hard and make sure you keep your head on right and use (the overall experience) as a motivational tool."

The obvious difference is salary and while Fruttero has racked up tons of frequent flyer miles, his year-to-date earnings are $8,900. "I try to stay out of the finances and rankings because my goal is to get better," said Fruttero. Although he winced when discussing his winnings in Kyoto ($260), Fruterro added that "I have to keep my mind on the game and the stuff that I can control.

The former All-American and captain of the tennis team at the University of California at Berkeley sounds like a corporate CEO in his approach. "If you're running your own business you're not just trying to make a little change here or there you're going for the big picture. "My brother (and coach), John Pierre and I have a developmental plan which looks at my game style and what I'm trying to do (on the court)," said Fruttero.

After going 72-0 at San Marino (Ca.) in high school, Fruttero passed up UCLA, USC, and Pepperdine to stay on the west coast unlike John Pierre who played tennis at the University of Pennsylvania.

Fruttero's developmental plan is impressive. In the last six months, he went from Guatemala to Waikoloa, Hawaii in the space of a week. From there he went to Tasmania and New Zealand before heading up to Japan. In April, he played in Tallahassee before jetting to Bogota, Columbia. Another trip to South America (Ecuador) was sandwiched around back-to-back tournaments in California.

"You have to keep giving yourself opportunities," said Fruttero. "You have play against the big boys and keep measuring yourself. Then you see where you're at and then go back to the drawing board."

His recipe for success is simple. "If I feel like I'm getting better, I will keep (playing on the tour). The instant I feel like I've hit that pinnacle then I can consider (retiring)."

Among Fruttero's improvements this year is his service play. "I'm a first-strike player, and I'm finding ways to finish points up at net, whether that's serving or hitting a big forehand and coming in."

"It's really all about the light at the end of the tunnel," said Fruttero. "I'm personally trying to be the best tennis player that I can be. Whether that's number one in the world or 150, I'm alright with that."

The Freedoms return home to Cabrini College this Wednesday to face John McEnroe and the New York Sportimes.

David W. Unkle is a freelance sports writer and frequent contributor to SLAM! Sports. His work appears on several news outlets along with hosting The Topcat Sports Show in the Philadelphia market. David can be contacted via the Show's website at http://www.topcatsports.org or topcatsports@canoemail.com.


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