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Thursday, October 9, 2008

Helgeson Posts Two Remarkable Comeback Victories at All-American; Shabaz Downs No. 2 Seed Lukacs

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Tulsa, OK--

The tennis was as abundant as the sunshine Thursday in the opening day of main draw play at the D'Novo ITA All-American. With two rounds of singles and one round of doubles, it took more than twelve hours to decide Friday's participants in the round of 16, but the perfect conditions--temperatures in the low 80s and no breeze--helped the hours fly by.

Notre Dame's Brett Helgeson had an inspiring day, picking up two victories when he was down and nearly out. In the first round, against Richard Wire of Stanford, Helgeson trailed 5-7, 1-5, 0-40, but saved those three match points and then another later in the set on his way to a 5-7, 7-5, 6-1 victory. In the afternoon match against No. 12 seed Nate Schnugg of Georgia, the Irish senior fell behind two breaks and 4-1 in the third set, but won the next five games for another improbable comeback, 4-6, 7-5, 6-4. Helgeson, whose brother Travis won the tournament as a Georgia Bulldog in 2007, faces top seed Oleksandra Nedovyesov of Oklahoma State on Friday.

Virginia sophomore Michael Shabaz posted the day's biggest upset, taking down No. 2 seed Denes Lukacs of Baylor 6-2, 6-4 in second round action. Lukacs made many more errors than is customary for him, but Shabaz had something to do with that. His backhand down the line was very effective, he returned well, and he never gave the Baylor junior an opportunity to build any momentum.

Lukacs wasn't the only high seed to fall as No. 3 seed Daniel Vallverdu of Miami lost to qualifer Rudolph Siwy of Fresno State in the opening round, and No. 7 seed Dimitar Kutrovsky of Texas was beaten by lucky loser Clint Bowles of Florida State in the second round.

Two other big upsets were avoided, as top seed Oleksandr Nedovyesov of Oklahoma State fought back from being down a set and a break to Bruno Agostinelli of Kentucky to take a 4-6, 7-5, 3-0 ret. inj. decision in the second round, and No. 4 seed Alex Clayton of Stanford saved three match points in the second set before battling to a 6-7(4), 7-6(5), 6-4 win over qualifier Jonas Berg of Ole Miss. Berg, who had survived a lengthy struggle in his first round win over Andres Arango of Arizona, kept Clayton on the court for nearly three hours, but serving at 4-5 in the third set, he just couldn't overcome the understandable fatigue he was experiencing at that stage of the evening. His doubles match was humanely rescheduled for Friday morning.

In all, there were seven unseeded players advancing to the round of 16, and 14 different schools represented. Only Ohio State, with No. 8 seed Justin Kronauge and No. 11 seed Steven Moneke, and Florida State with Bowles and No. 13 seed Jean Yves Aubone, have two players still in contention for the title.

In doubles, the only seeded team to lose was Texas's Edward Corrie and Kellen Damico, the No. 3 seeds, who were defeated by Kentucky's Agostinelli and Brad Cox 8-6.

For complete draws, see the ITA tournament website.