Facebook Twitter

IT’S NOT GRAF, BUT GARRISON WHO IS BETWEEN NAVRATILOVA AND TITLE

SHARE IT’S NOT GRAF, BUT GARRISON WHO IS BETWEEN NAVRATILOVA AND TITLE

The assumption: Martina Navratilova would play Steffi Graf in the Wimbledon final today.

The reality: Navratilova will meet Zina Garrison.Navratilova, who hopes to win a record ninth Wimbledon title, did not care who showed up to stop her.

"I did not plan on playing anybody in particular," said Navratilova, who played Graf in the last three Wimbledon finals, winning in 1987, then losing the last two years.

"That helped me. I've been there before where I had been planning so much on playing Chris, and then Hana (Mandlikova) beat Chris in the semifinal (in 1986). And it really threw me for a loop. I had been going against baseliners and had it in my mind I was going to play Chris. Then, when she lost, I wasn't mentally prepared, and I wasn't going to make the same mistake again.

"I know you guys were supposing that Steffi was going to be in the finals, but I wasn't going to take anything for granted. And I certainly didn't worry about her. I worried about me getting into the finals. I'm in the final and I'm playing somebody that nobody expected to be there. But I'm not surprised that Zina's there."

Garrison, the fifth seed, upset Graf after eliminating Monica Seles in the quarterfinals. Garrison, 26, a Houston native, is in her first Grand Slam final, after the biggest double upset since Graf beat Navratilova and Evert, back-to-back, at Lipton in 1987.

A third upset would be extraordinary. Especially against Navratilova.

Garrison beat Navratilova in the 1988 U.S. Open quarterfinals. But Navratilova has won the other 27 meetings. Navratilova does not have a better record (percentage-wise) against anyone else, past or present, in the game.

"It's Martina's tournament," Graf said, after she lost. "Zina doesn't have the game to beat Martina."

Garrison believes lightning can strike again.

"I like those compliments. They make me work harder," Garrison said. "I've beaten Martina and played her close in a lot of situations. You get to a final like this on grass and anything can happen."

"Obviously my record is overwhelming," said Navratilova, who beat Garrison 6-1, 6-0 indoors in Washington the last time they played. "But she has done it before and this is the surface that she would be most likely to do it again. She beat Steffi, so she can certainly beat me."

Navratilova has waited a year to play this match. The Wimbledon final - against whomever showed up.

"I'm sweating already just thinking about it," Navratilova said, after beating Gabriela Sabatini in the semifinals. "I'd probably be better off going out and playing it right now than have to think about it for two days. I'm excited. I've done all the work, and there's nothing I can do now. Either execute and win it, or Zina wins."

Garrison, meanwhile, has beeen a steady top 10 player who never managed to win the big one and got tagged as a choker. She hit bottom last month when she blew a match point and lost in the first round of the French Open to unheralded Wiltrud Probst of West Germany.

But she wrote that loss off to lack of preparation on clay. Wimbledon was the tournament she had been working toward for months.

Garrison said she drew inspiration from 30-year-old Andres Gomez's victory in the French Open men's final. And she credited her husband, Willard Jackson, with helping her relax, and her coach, Sherwood Stewart, with honing her game.