Freshman remains perfect

Abraham Rakov

Freshman Audra Cohen continued her perfect season with a 6-2, 3-6, 6-0 victory Tuesday over teammate and No. 2 seed Cristelle Grier in the finals of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Midwest Regional Championship.

Cohen, who is now 19-0, was the No. 1 seed of the tournament after defeating Grier, a junior, in the finals of the Rice Classic and ITA All-American Singles Championship earlier this month.

“I went out and played my game,” Cohen said. “You just have to go out and play the ball, not the person on the other side of the net.”

Early in the first set, Cohen and Grier traded games until Cohen broke Grier’s serve and reeled off four straight to take the set 6-2.

Cohen quickly dropped the first three points of the second set, and Grier took advantage, winning the first two games before Cohen could get back in the match.

After breaking Grier’s serve and pulling the set to 3-3, Cohen lost the final three games of the second set to even the match at one each.

“Grier played really well today, ” Cohen said. “It was the best match of the three we played.”

But Grier could not do anything with the momentum she gained by winning the final three games of the second set.

Grier, a former Wimbledon wild card, proceeded to lose six straight games in the third set, giving Cohen the match.

This is the third-consecutive tournament in which Cohen has defeated Grier in the final, but it was the first time the freshman needed a third set.

“Each time I play (Cohen), I try to come up with something different,” Grier said. “Nothing I try seems to be working at the moment.”

The match seemed to get away from Grier in the third set, when she made more of an effort to put points away at the net.

But the strategy didn’t work, as Cohen tracked down most of her put-away attempts and eventually won most of those points.

Before the season began, Grier was ranked the preseason No. 1 women’s tennis player in the country.

She has advanced to the finals of all three tournaments she has entered.

“I think this season has been going great,” Grier said. “I’ve only lost to one person, unfortunately it has been three times.”

As a freshman, Cohen began the season needing to qualify for tournaments, but so far she has gone undefeated, winning three titles.

“I am really surprised,” Cohen said. “I didn’t think I would do this well this fast.

“I am really happy with how things are going.”

Cohen not only has had to adjust to the challenges of playing collegiate tennis, but also has needed to adjust to being a college student.

“I think that has probably been the hardest thing,” Cohen said. “It’s hard to keep focused on schoolwork, but I can handle it.”

On Monday, Cohen and Grier teamed up to win the ITA Midwest Regional Doubles Championship, 8-3, in their first win as doubles partners.

“Our chemistry as a doubles team is awesome,” Cohen said. “We are going to be very good this season.”

Minnesota hosted the tournament in Minneapolis, but the final was moved to NU’s Combe Tennis Center when Cohen and Grier made it an all-Northwestern final.

Many NU students and faculty took advantage of the location change and attended the match, including NU President Henry Bienen and Director of Athletics Mark Murphy.

Bienen said he was excited to come watch Cohen and Grier.

“They are two really good tennis players,” Bienen said. “I hadn’t seen our freshman yet, and I was playing squash so it was convenient for me to come.

“I would probably have come anyway, though.”

Reach Abraham Rakov at [email protected]