Potential. Injuries. Adversity. Perseverance. Success.
These words not only describe the 2007 campaign for the Big West champion men’s tennis squad, but they also depict the season for one of its standouts – freshman Philip Therp. Therp has put together a stellar first year campaign that has brought him several accolades, including the Big West Freshman of the Year award, despite missing six weeks during the season due to a broken wrist.
“[The award] was a great honor and it’s something I’ll use as a confidence boost for the next couple weeks,” Therp said.
In addition to preparing for the Gauchos’ first-round NCAA Tournament match against USC slated for next Friday, Therp will also be one of 64 players participating in the NCAA singles championships May 23 through 28. The selection to the singles draw was an unexpected but pleasant surprise for the native of Denmark, who will be the only player in the field representing the Big West conference.
“I was just so focused to win Big West, and all of a sudden I get this great opportunity,” Therp said. “The only pressure is the pressure I give myself. It gives me motivation to work even harder and be in great shape for that.”
Therp started out strong, but on Feb. 9 his season took a turn for the worst when he went down with an injury in a loss to Boise State. He finished his match, but it was later revealed that he had a broken left wrist, coming at a time when the Gauchos could least afford it. Junior Jack Hui also went down with a broken wrist and senior Elad Stern suffered a season-ending torn rotator cuff.
“I just wanted to help the team win,” Therp said. “We had such high expectations, but then [Hui] got injured and I got injured and I wasn’t able to do anything about it.”
Hui and Therp both returned to the Gauchos after a nearly six-week absence in a match against Dartmouth. Despite UCSB’s 5-2 loss to the Big Green, Therp was a standout performer, winning his return singles match 6-3, 7-6 and earning him his first Big West Player of the Week honor. Since then Therp has gone 4-3 in singles, battling not only the wrist injury but nagging knee problems.
“When I came back I was put in a match right away,” Therp said. “I’ve lost to players that I would not have lost to if I hadn’t had the injury.”
What has been particularly impressive about Therp’s comeback effort is that his wrist injury has relegated him to a one-handed backhand, which has forced him to sharpen his game in other areas. While he will likely not be able to use two hands in Friday’s NCAA tournament match, Therp hopes that by the time the singles championships roll around he will not be as limited.
“Playing with one hand I want to hit a good forehand, so it’s taken a lot more energy,” Therp said. “I had to do more fitness and footwork, but at the same time I’ve had a knee problems, so I couldn’t get into the shape I wanted to get in.”
The Gauchos are hoping to ride the momentum from their hard-fought victory in the Big West Championships when they attempt to upset the nation’s #12 team and host USC in the first round of the NCAA tournament. If Therp’s unwavering confidence is any indication, Santa Barbara is going to be a tough out.
“The spirit on our team is great, people are really starting to believe that we can do this,” Therp said. “I always believe I have a chance. I know if I play up to the level I’m capable of then I’m going to win.”