Two former Washington State tennis players are making their way on the Women’s Tennis Association professional tour. Liudmila Vasilieva and Elizabeth Fournier are waving their flags across the globe while pursuing their life-long dream of playing professional tennis.
Cougar fans are familiar with the pair as they spent three years playing next to each other in the Cougar lineup, with Fournier’s time at WSU (2008-12) one year ahead of Vasilieva’s (2009-13). While in Pullman they led the Cougars to the second round of the 2012 NCAA championship before falling to eventual champion and No. 2 seed Florida.
Their names are etched in Cougar tennis history as Fournier is WSU’s all-time leader in singles victories with 108 while Vasilieva is right behind at 107. They also have combined to secure the top three single-season victory totals in school history.
“I am thrilled for both Luda and Liz and what they are accomplishing on the pro tour,” said WSU Head Coach Lisa Hart. “It is a very tough business but both have persevered and continue to dedicate themselves to improving their game.”
This year Vasilieva, a native of Yekaterinburg, Russia who has been on the tour since graduating last May, has played the best tennis of her career, reaching a career-high ranking of No. 617 in singles and 679 in doubles, both marks her current ranking. After ending the 2013 season at No. 791, Vasilieva has made the jump thanks to strong performances on both the Egyptian and Kazakhstan circuits, reaching the semifinals in Egypt last month with another semifinal appearance in Kazakhstan in April.
Vasilieva has also found success in doubles, winning an event in Egypt last November, reaching the finals in another en route to a season-ending 879 ranking in 2013. While Vasilieva’s game continues to grow, she was quick to recognize that her time in Pullman provided the resources needed on the tour.
“I came to Pullman with the thoughts of a professional career following graduation and playing at Washington State helped me a great deal to pursue my goal,” Vasilieva said. “It was definitely the right choice because my college years were great preparation for the upcoming challenges of the professional tour. I got the necessary experience that improved my game tremendously as I competed against the best teams in Pac-12 Conference and the best players in the nation.”
Fournier, a native of Ottawa, Canada, graduated in 2012 with an economics degree and has been playing the tour since leaving Pullman. Currently holding a No. 718 world ranking, she reached a career-high of 534 in October 2013, following a first-round appearance at a $50,000 Canadian event last October. She also reached the quarterfinals at an event in Mexico last September, contributing to her career-high ranking.
Fournier has also found success in doubles, as she currently stands at a career-high ranking of 504. Over the past year she has reached the quarterfinals in seven events, including three $50,000 tournaments in Canada.
“My experience at WSU was amazing,” said Fournier. “The support I received from the community, teachers, support staff, teammates and coaches allowed me to grow as a person and tennis player, on the court as well as in the classroom. Being part of the Pac-12 Conference allowed me to face the toughest competition the NCAA had to offer, giving me the opportunity to face the sort of level I would see on the professional tour.”
While at WSU both players epitomized what the term student-athlete meant. Fournier earned two ITA Scholar-Athlete Awards, three times was named an All-Academic Pacific-10 Conference first team selection, while also receiving the Cougar Pride Academic Salute, CoSIDA Academic All-District VIII , WSU President’s Honor Roll each of her eight semesters and the WSU Athletics All-Academic Team each of her four seasons.
“Since graduating, I’ve traveled all over Europe and North America, playing professional tournaments,” said Fournier. “It's been a dream come true!”
Vasilieva, who graduated with a finance degree, was a two-time NCAA singles Championship participant and two-time All-Pac-12 Conference honoree, while also being named WSU’s Pac-12 Conference Medal recipient in 2013 and a WSU Alumni Association Big 10 Senior Award recipient.
“With the coaching I received at WSU we were able to take my game to a higher level as we worked on weaknesses and developed the strength needed to succeed,” said Vasilieva. “The knowledge I gained there has been invaluable in my professional career.
While both are missed in Pullman, neither will stray too far from the Cougar Tennis family. As Vasilieva said, “Once a Coug, Always a Coug!”