Freshman teammate upsets No. 1 Grier

Coley Harvey

Two Northwestern women’s tennis players took to the court Sunday in a classic David vs. Goliath-style match.

An older, more experienced and nationally ranked junior, Cristelle Grier, was pitted against freshman Audra Cohen in the singles final at the Rice Invitational in Houston.

Grier entered the tournament as the No. 1 player in NCAA women’s tennis; she’s the first woman in NU and Big Ten history to be ranked that high.

But she was upset by Cohen in straight sets, 6-3, 7-5, as the freshman snagged her first collegiate tournament final victory.

“Cristelle is a great tennis player, but she’s an even better human being,” coach Claire Pollard said. “A prime example of that was this weekend when she handled her loss with great class and dignity.”

She and Cohen actually teamed up in the doubles final to defeat fellow Wildcats Vladea RalucaValentina and Alexis Prousis 8-6.

Despite the loss to her young teammate, Grier said she doesn’t think her ranking will be lowered.

She said the ranking is “good to get, but of course it is still preseason. It is definitely something I will try hard to keep as the year goes on.”

A native of England, Grier grew up within spitting distance of the world-renowned grass courts of Wimbledon, a place she idolized as a child.

“I definitely dreamt of playing at Wimbledon,” she said. “It’s every British kid’s dream.”

She competed there for the fourth time in June at the qualifying tournament for the Wimbledon Championships, but lost to Alexandra Stevenson in the singles final.

Grier has plenty of experience in big-time collegiate tournaments.

Last season she made the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament as the eighth-seed. She was knocked out of the competition when she lost to Clemson’s Julie Coin in three sets.

But Grier wasn’t done. She and teammate Jessica Rush also reached the quarterfinals of the doubles tournament before losing to Jessica Johnson and Ashley Kroh of Marshall.

Grier finished the year with a 40-5 mark, a school record for victories.

Last weekend’s Rice Invitational was a tune-up for Grier and her teammates as they head to Chattanooga, Tenn., this weekend for the Intercollegiate Tennis Association All-American Championships.

“We played last weekend so we could get as many matches as possible under our belts before All-Americans next week,” Grier said. “Since not all of us played a lot this summer, it was a good time to get some matches in before serious tournament play gets going.”

The NU men’s team also had a tournament last weekend but sent only one player. Sophomore Christian Tempke went 2-1 in singles play at the Baylor Intercollegiate Tournament at Baylor University.

He won his first two matches, 6-4, 7-6 and 6-3, 6-1, before losing 6-3, 5-3 to Jacob Hernandez of Tulane University in the Round of 16.

Tempke and the rest of the men’s team also will be in Tennessee this weekend for the ITA All-American Championships.

The men’s team finished 15-9 last year, the Cats’ best finish since 1998.

Reach Coley Harvey at [email protected]