Georgia's Helgeson Comes From Behind to Earn Polo All-American Championship; UVA Captures Doubles Title
©Colette Lewis 2007--
University of Georgia senior Travis Helgeson fought through two brief rain delays, gusty winds and a determined but weary qualifier Robert Farah to take the 2007 Polo ITA All-American singles title 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 Sunday morning.
The sprinkles began in the third game of the first set, but didn't disrupt play until 4-2, when Farah already held a break. Play resumed about fifteen minutes later and shortly thereafter the USC sophomore was serving for the first set. He couldn't put Helgeson away and at 5-5 the drops came down again; it was another ten minutes before played resumed. Farah held and then broke for the first set, but despite taking the lead, he wasn't pleased by the disruptions.
"I was feeling good, I don't like the stops," Farah said. "It was a little bit hard on my rhythm."
Helgeson agreed that he benefited from the delays even though he lost the opening set.
"I think they helped me more than anything," Helgeson said. "I was down in the first set, and it just kind of slowed him down. He had the momentum in the first set, and that gave me time to regroup."
In all four of his previous three-set victories, Farah had dropped the second set, and Sunday was no exception. Helgeson got an early break, and Farah admitted that at the beginning of the second set he was feeling the effects of his ninth match in seven days. "The second set I felt really bad, really tired and I was broken, so I got mentally tired too," said Farah.
Helgeson gave the break back serving at 4-3, but Farah wouldn't accept the gift and was immediately broken to give Helgeson the chance to serve for the second set, which the left-hander from Overland Park, Kan., did, holding at love.
In the deciding set the tension built as both players held their first four service games. Throughout the match Helgeson's forehand cross court to Farah's backhand was strength to strength, but in the ninth game of the third set, Farah made three errors on that side and was the victim of the netcord on another. He was broken at love, prompting him to scream out "this is unbelivable," after a backhand found the net.
Helgeson, serving for the match, had just one hiccup, a double fault at 30-15, but he took the next two points to claim the title, joining John Isner, who won the All-American in 2005, as a Georgia Bulldog singles champion.
Helgeson pointed to his experience as a key factor in withstanding the pressure of the final few games, and Farah agreed that Helgeson's national championship play for Georgia this past spring may have given him an edge.
"This is the first time I have done something so good in my life," said Farah, who is from Cali, Columbia. "The guy won the NCAA (team championship) last season, so maybe he's used to winning those big matches. He was better than me physically, and that's my fault, because I was always going to the third set. He played better, that's all I can say."
The fourth seed, Helgeson said he was proud to have reached the final, having lost in the second round at the All-American the previous two years, and felt no additional pressure to measure up to Isner accomplishments.
"For me, I had nothing to lose," said Helgeson. "I was having fun playing out there today."
The doubles final, which began an hour after the singles, ended just moments before Helgeson's victory, with the top seeded team of Somdev Devvarman and Treat Huey of Virginia taking that school's first All-American doubles title with a 6-2, 7-5 decision over unseeded Jonas Berg and Erling Tveit of Ole Miss.
The Cavalier seniors broke Tveit in the opening game and never looked backed in the first set. The second set was much closer, but at 5-5, Devvarman and Huey broke Berg for the only time in the match, and Huey served it out.
"We were both serving great today," said Huey. "In the second set, they stepped up their game a little. At 5-all, Somdev and I came up with some great shots to break. All week we've served real well and been solid at the net."
"They had a great tournament coming into the finals," said Devvarman of their unseeded opponents. "We had a good match today, but we got our breaks at the right time and it went our way."
"It's always a nice way to end it in doubles, but in singles, I'm sure Treat and I felt we could have done a lot better than we did," said Devvarman, the top seed in singles, who lost to Helgeson in Saturday's semifinal. "We'll just have to learn from it and try to get better."
The consolation singles draw for players losing in the first round was completed this morning, with Bassam Beidas of Pepperdine defeating Justin Kronauge of Ohio State 6-3, 6-2. The University of Denver team of Adam Holmstrom and Niklas Persson won the doubles consolation title, defeating Farah and Robert Van't Hof of USC 8-4.
For complete draws, see itatennis.com.