The quietly very good career of Zina Garrison

bluetrain4

G.O.A.T.
A Slam final - Wimbledon
4 additional SFs
10 additional QFs
14 additional Fourth Rounds
Olympic gold (doubles) and bronze (singles)
14 tournament wins and 22 additional tournament finals.
3 mixed doubles Slams (though surprisingly no doubles Slams)
2 Fed Cup wins
Wins over most of the greats she played - including Seles and Graf back to back at Wimbledon 1990.
$4.5 million in prize money (that's a lot considering when she played) [Note: To illustrate how much prize money has grown - In Graf's incredible 1988 and 1989 seasons she was the prize money leader with approx $1.4 million and $1.55 million respectively - now all the Slams pay more than that to the winner - just ONE tournament.]

I can see why she's not talked about much - she wasn't a consistent serious contender for singles Slams - but the Graf-Navratilova 1988 Wimbledon thread had me on Wiki looking at drawsheets and Navratilova's post 1988 career which led my to Zina.

I remember watching her and she was very good attacking player. She had that hip-booty shake on the return. Lol. I hadn't remembered her career being quite so accomplished. Kudos Zina.
 
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She was a good player, but her personality was always a turn off to me. She seems to be a self pitying type, and many of her comments I saw I found strange. She is also one of the biggest gripers about racial prejudice in tennis against blacks (which is probably true to an extent) and agreed with even some of the most ridiculous OTT Papa Williams came out with in 97 when the sisters first emerged, but then thrashed her so called bff Lori McNeil's win over her at the 87 U.S Open, saying she always got lucky and it wasn't fair, and even took some potshots at her after her career big win over Graf at Wimbledon 94. So she if anyone is the one disrespecting black players, her own best friend on tour no less.

She also implied when she dropped as Fed Cup leader it was due to racism even though she was replaced by hispanic Mary Joe Fernandez. Her whole attitude was a turn off to me, and probably a reason she does not get full kudos for her playing career. And don't even get me started on her commentary, she manages to single handedly top the whole horrid ESPN crew combined.
 

BTURNER

Legend
She got two victories over Evert, including on green clay in 1985 and the QF win at the 89 Open. She had a nice serve and fine volleys but what really set her apart was her footspeed and her ability to change directions both at net and baseline. That woman could cover court better than almost any player, and her defensive play was excellent. I think she was quicker covering the court than Turnbull, Sanchez or Navratilova!

She reached the finals of 36 singles tournaments winning 14 from August 83 through June 95. They break down as follows. On clay she reached 4 finals winning only one. On Grass she reached 8 finals winning 4 of them. One hard courts she reached 9 finals winning 3 of them. On carpet she reached 15 finals winning 6.
 
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She got two victories over Evert, including on green clay in 1985 and the QF win at the 89 Open. She had a nice serve and fine volleys but what really set her apart was her footspeed and her ability to change directions both at net and baseline. That woman could cover court better than almost any player, and her defensive play was excellent. I think she was quicker covering the court than Turnbull, Sanchez or Navratilova!
Yeah her biggest weapon was her speed for sure. She didn't have a big weapon off a single shot, but her feet and fighting spirit were her biggest assets. She was kind of like a Sanchez Vicario who was a serve and volley player mainly instead of a baseliner.
 

BTURNER

Legend
Yeah her biggest weapon was her speed for sure. She didn't have a big weapon off a single shot, but her feet and fighting spirit were her biggest assets. She was kind of like a Sanchez Vicario who was a serve and volley player mainly instead of a baseliner.
She had all the shots, and great variety in her game but her weakness was her mental game. She could really get down on herself in a hurry and then the errors would fly off that racket.
 
She had all the shots, and great variety in her game but her weakness was her mental game. She could really get down on herself in a hurry and then the errors would fly off that racket.
Yeah that was her weakness, along with a lack of a single truly stand out shot. Her stand out quality was her feet, but not one shot that was just truly outstanding or that she could hit winners off at will even when playing well.
 

bluetrain4

G.O.A.T.
I like to examine the careers of the "second tier" - the people who filled out the field, gave the tournaments depth and occasionally rose up and had big upset, had a big moment -- overall they had great careers but didn't make that last jump up to the level that normally gets discussed. Even Slam champions can fall into this "second tier" IMO - e.g., Majoli, Bartoli.
 

bluetrain4

G.O.A.T.
She had all the shots, and great variety in her game but her weakness was her mental game. She could really get down on herself in a hurry and then the errors would fly off that racket.
I was surprised when rewatching her 1990 Wimbledon SF vs Graf with the variety off her backhand - defensive slices, knifing aggressive slices, topspin passing shots, decent lobs.
 
I was so happy for her at Wimbledon 1990. That was the tournament of her career. I also felt sorry for her. Beating Seles and Graf back to back, and still you had to play Navratilova after that. It reminds me of Berdych in Wimbledon 2010 beating Fed and Novak back to back, only to have Nadal waiting. It was one bridge too far for both, to beat 3 greats back to back to back.

She did beat all the greats in a slam atleast once. Navratilova and Evert each famously at the U.S Open of course.
 

BTURNER

Legend
I was surprised when rewatching her 1990 Wimbledon SF vs Graf with the variety off her backhand - defensive slices, knifing aggressive slices, topspin passing shots, decent lobs.
She had the shots but she was one of those players who's results I think would have been far different, if the coaching rules were changed to allow coaching at changeovers. She needed the pep talks, the reminders on strategy and an objective voice on when to shutter that drop shot or when to bring out that lob. Zina could get lost in the forest of her own emotions and a few discreet gestures from her coach just wasn't enough for her to find her way.
 
She had the shots but she was one of those players who's results I think would have been far different, if the coaching rules were changed to allow coaching at changeovers. She needed the pep talks, the reminders on strategy and an objective voice on when to shutter that drop shot or when to bring out that lob. Zina could get lost in the forest of her own emotions and a few discreet gestures from her coach just wasn't enough for her to find her way.
She also had strange shot selection. That is something better coaching would have helped. Why on earth she kept drop shotting Navratilova in the 90 Wimbledon final I will never know. She also reasoned in her interview that she decided to go back to it since even though she didn't do it much vs Graf, it worked so beautifuly vs Seles. Well Seles is not comfortable in that part of the court when it is not on her own terms, and was not a super mover- atleast not moving forward, at that point in time. You are bringing Navratilova to her favorite part of the whole court constantly, and she moves incredibly, especialy forward. How she came up with that reasoning is beyond me.
 

bluetrain4

G.O.A.T.
She also had strange shot selection. That is something better coaching would have helped. Why on earth she kept drop shotting Navratilova in the 90 Wimbledon final I will never know. She also reasoned in her interview that she decided to go back to it since even though she didn't do it much vs Graf, it worked so beautifuly vs Seles. Well Seles is not comfortable in that part of the court when it is not on her own terms, and was not a super mover- atleast not moving forward, at that point in time. You are bringing Navratilova to her favorite part of the whole court constantly, and she moves incredibly, especialy forward. How she came up with that reasoning is beyond me.
I'm guessing it was a post hoc justification to help her deal with the loss. Probably didn't want to admit to herself at that point that she made some real bad strategy errors in a Slam final.
 
I'm guessing it was a post hoc justification to help her deal with the loss. Probably didn't want to admit to herself at that point that she made some real bad strategy errors in a Slam final.
Yeah I think so. And I think it was just some major nerves. Despite that she was still the big underdog, after beating both Graf and Seles, she didn't want to waste the opportunity to win a slam. And might have convinced herself she now had a real shot vs an aging Navratilova, who she had beaten once and played close a couple other times in recent slams, despite the horrible head to head and Martina being the all time Wimbledon queen. When you are nervous your feet and brain stem flow both tend to freeze.

Still it was an amazing feat to do the Graf-Seles double kill. It was the equivalent of the Williams double kill at the time. Amazing feat by Zina.
 

bluetrain4

G.O.A.T.
Yeah I think so. And I think it was just some major nerves. Despite that she was still the big underdog, after beating both Graf and Seles, she didn't want to waste the opportunity to win a slam. And might have convinced herself she now had a real shot vs an aging Navratilova, who she had beaten once and played close a couple other times in recent slams, despite the horrible head to head and Martina being the all time Wimbledon queen. When you are nervous your feet and brain stem flow both tend to freeze.

Still it was an amazing feat to do the Graf-Seles double kill. It was the equivalent of the Williams double kill at the time. Amazing feat by Zina.
I agree with all of this. It's also why I scoff at the notion that underdogs "have nothing to lose." They have the match and a rare opportunity to lose. Zina sure played/strategized like she did. And given everything you pointed out, it probably hit her like a ton of bricks that "in theory I could win this and I might not get another chance."
 

BTURNER

Legend
I agree with all of this. It's also why I scoff at the notion that underdogs "have nothing to lose." They have the match and a rare opportunity to lose. Zina sure played/strategized like she did. And given everything you pointed out, it probably hit her like a ton of bricks that "in theory I could win this and I might not get another chance."
Its a big difference in my view how far along their career trajectory this underdog is, when they are playing this match. When you are 17, 20 or even 23 you convince yourself that there will be lots of opportunities coming along so they don't see it as rare at all. But you are in your mid to late 20's or early 30's, you bloody well know how rare it is going to be for you and your legacy is in stark contrast to your aspirations of youth. Then that pressure is much stronger.
 
I agree with all of this. It's also why I scoff at the notion that underdogs "have nothing to lose." They have the match and a rare opportunity to lose. Zina sure played/strategized like she did. And given everything you pointed out, it probably hit her like a ton of bricks that "in theory I could win this and I might not get another chance."
And if she sensed that she was correct as she did never get another chance.
 

Moose Malloy

G.O.A.T.
Some interesting trivia about Zina she came close to having a golden set and close to being on the end of a golden set. Won 21 straight points to begin the 2nd set vs Katerina Maleeva at 1986 Chicago, and lost the first 20 points vs Graf at 1989 Washington.

Thought it was interesting that she played Navratilova 34 times, but Evert only 11 times.

Finished 12 straight years in the top 20 - from '82 to '93. Her highest seed at a major was 3 at 1990 AO.

Weird comments about Zina by Evert before playing the 85 Amelia Island final "we're both basically groundstroke players"

Evert had a rough schedule at this event. She played singles and doubles, spent a lot of time on court the 2 days leading up to the final. Sounds like Carillo is expecting her not to win the tournament based on this schedule.
 
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bluetrain4

G.O.A.T.
Some interesting trivia about Zina she came close to having a golden set and close to being on the end of a golden set. Won 21 straight points to begin the 2nd set vs Katerina Maleeva at 1986 Chicago, and lost the first 20 points vs Graf at 1989 Washington.

Thought it was interesting that she played Navratilova 34 times, but Evert only 11 times.

Finished 12 straight years in the top 20 - from '82 to '93. Her highest seed at a major was 3 at 1990 AO.

Weird comments about Zina by Evert before playing the 85 Amelia Island final "we're both basically groundstroke players"

Evert had a rough schedule at this event. She played singles and doubles, spent a lot of time on court the 2 days leading up to the final. Sounds like Carillo is expecting her not to win the tournament based on this schedule.
At that 1990 AO - she lost to six seed MFJ 8-6 in the third in the quarters - no shame in that. But, what a missed opportunity. SF opponent would have been Claudia Porwik (who?). Of course any number of good players similarly miss opportunities over their careers.
 
At that 1990 AO - she lost to six seed MFJ 8-6 in the third in the quarters - no shame in that. But, what a missed opportunity. SF opponent would have been Claudia Porwik (who?). Of course any number of good players similarly miss opportunities over their careers.
And she would have played Graf who was pretty off form that whole year, right from the start. She still probably loses, especialy on this slow hard court, but she did beat Graf later that year of course, so who knows.
 

suwanee4712

Professional
Good on ya, bluetrain, for starting a thread for Zina. I can't say that I fully appreciated her as a player until later on in her career. But she was tough in both singles and doubles. She's also a player who changed her game from the beginning of her career until the end.

I think I first have to say that the public parks program that both she and Lori McNeil came out of in Houston must have been tremendous. There should be plaques and awards named for John Wilkerson.

The first time I saw Zina she was so pitiful. She emotionally melted down as Virginia Wade rode a thunderous home crowd to victory over her at Wimbledon in 83. She really wasn't strong enough to handle that situation at all. But she came back strong to get to the U.S. Clay Courts Final against Temesvari, who, at the time, really was a better player than Zina.

She was fine as a baseliner, but somewhat limited. As previously noted she had great footspeed, but what I've always loved about her game was her down the line backhand, flat or with topspin. That was really a shot that served her well through the years. However, her forehand wasn't much. Like her serve, it had a hitch and was prone to go off and stay off. She ended up losing another U.S. CC title to Temesvari in 85, oddly enough. I don't think she liked being pushed back by Andrea's heavy spin.

Zina's win over Chris at the Open didn't shock me considering the state of Chris' game, but I am still floored that Zina managed to beat her at Amelia Island on clay. I've never seen that match, but I did see her win over Hana in the semis. She outsteadied Hana and attacked just enough to keep her from getting comfortable.

But I suppose we'll all remember Zina for her great Wimbledon run. Beating Monica and Steffi back to back was quite a feat. And she serve and volleyed beautifully.

However, my favorite win of her's was over Martina at the 88 Open. Her volleying was spectacular, and Martina approached too often to that backhand. The third set was the stuff of which tennis dreams are made.I

When you look back on her record she accomplished a lot. She won a lot of singles and doubles titles, and made a great mixed team with Sherwood Stewart. I think Sherwood was also a great coach for her in 1990.
 

Moose Malloy

G.O.A.T.
but I am still floored that Zina managed to beat her at Amelia Island on clay. I've never seen that match
Well going by the you tube comments, it sounds like Evert was exhausted in that match. She played Sabatini in a 3 set QF, then went out and played 3 sets of doubles(with Bassett). Got off court at 1 am. Had to play 3 sets the next afternoon with Kohde-Kilsch(the second semi) and then had to play another 3 set doubles match after (vs Garrison/McNeil). Not best prep for final. Wonder why she played doubles that week (also played doubles the week before at Family Circle Cup, logged a lot of matches in 2 weeks)
 

BTURNER

Legend
Well going by the you tube comments, it sounds like Evert was exhausted in that match. She played Sabatini in a 3 set QF, then went out and played 3 sets of doubles(with Bassett). Got off court at 1 am. Had to play 3 sets the next afternoon with Kohde-Kilsch(the second semi) and then had to play another 3 set doubles match after (vs Garrison/McNeil). Not best prep for final. Wonder why she played doubles that week (also played doubles the week before at Family Circle Cup, logged a lot of matches in 2 weeks)
My guess is she was trying to use doubles to improve her volleying instincts and get more confidence up there in an effort to change a failing Wimbledon pattern in the last few years.
 

suwanee4712

Professional
I also suspect Evert enjoyed doubles. In Pam's book, she poked a little fun at Chris' choices of doubles partners in 85. I'm Paris she played with Paradis, a French player, at Wimbledon with Englishwoman Croft, and the Canadian with Bassett. So the locker room was guessing who she might play with in New York.

But then she upset the pattern by playing with Bassett again at the U.S. Open. :)
 

bluetrain4

G.O.A.T.
Fun Fact - Zina has went to high school with Clyde "The Glide" Drexler - NBA Champion/10x All-Star, "Phi Slama Jama" at U Houston; Olympic gold medalist.
 

bluetrain4

G.O.A.T.
She used the choked up grip for everything except the serve. She was effectively playing with a 24.5" racquet, more like playing paddle tennis. I always wondered if she had a special grip with a built-in reference point on it?
That's really interesting. Even more important for her have those super fast feet and great movement when her reach, by choice, is reduced by 2.5 inches over a standard frame and by even more compared to extended length frames.
 

travlerajm

G.O.A.T.
That's really interesting. Even more important for her have those super fast feet and great movement when her reach, by choice, is reduced by 2.5 inches over a standard frame and by even more compared to extended length frames.
I just reviewed some images. It looks like the choke-up is more like 1.5". Still a very unique way to wield a racquet. If I didn't already have a 2hb that was my best shot, I'd consider trying it. I love volleying and hitting chip returns with shortened racquets.
 

jorjipy

Rookie
I just reviewed some images. It looks like the choke-up is more like 1.5". Still a very unique way to wield a racquet. If I didn't already have a 2hb that was my best shot, I'd consider trying it. I love volleying and hitting chip returns with shortened racquets.

Yannick Noah also held the racquet the same way
 

jrepac

Hall of Fame
She had all the shots, and great variety in her game but her weakness was her mental game. She could really get down on herself in a hurry and then the errors would fly off that racket.
Agreed. I always felt she could have won a slam or two, but her head seemed to be full of junk. Some of her post-match comments were unusual, I agree. If she could beat Evert on clay and HC, well that says a lot about her ability. Plus those wins on grass. I actually thought she was going to win that Wimbledon final but she put on a poor performance.
 
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