Big victories for Garrison pay off in big endorsements

December 09, 1990|By Michelle Kaufman | Michelle Kaufman,Knight-Ridder News Service

DETROIT -- The last time we saw Zina Garrison, she was raising Wimbledon's stodgy eyebrows with victories over French Open star Monica Seles and No. 1-ranked Steffi Graf. By the time her championship match against Martina Navratilova rolled around, Garrison was able to trade in Navratilova signature clothing for some of her own.

Garrison signed a six-figure endorsement deal with Reebok 24 hours before her 6-4, 6-1 loss to Navratilova. A lucrative offer from racket manufacturer Yonex followed. For the first time in her eight-year pro career, Garrison, 27, is making money off the court.

Big victories and big bucks spun her previously quiet world into a frenzy, but Garrison, an admitted workaholic, welcomes the hectic lifestyle.

"I enjoy it, I just have to get used to it and I should learn how to say no," said Garrison, one of eight players in Detroit for the Euro-America's Cup tournament. "I've been doing lots of speaking engagements and playing small tournaments and it took a lot of my time. I got really tired."

Not one to enjoy vacations, Garrison reluctantly took two weeks off last month. She was going crazy by the 10th day and is eager to get back on the court.

Garrison and Patty Fendick compete in doubles on Friday against Graf and Andrea Temesvari. Sunday will feature the first rematch between Garrison and Graf since their Wimbledon semifinal. Other players in the tournament are Amy Frazier; Pam Shriver, coming off shoulder surgery; and Sabine Applemans of Belgium, who skyrocketed from No. 149 to No. 22 in the world this year.

Tennis fans should notice a more patient Garrison this weekend. She is seeing a sports psychologist for inner breathing exercises. Her coach, Sherwood Stewart, and husband of one year, Willard Jackson, are helping other parts of her mental game.

"I'm a very rushing player, and that's hurt me in the past," Garrison said. "I have to learn how to relax."

Garrison also is figuring out how to control her speed. While she's one of the quickest players on the tour, fatigue often hurt her near the end of matches.

"Some people might think I've lost a step since I'm getting older, but I've really gotten a little faster," she said. "I understand the court now. Before, I'd overrun the ball a lot and wear myself out."

Garrison, the youngest of seven children, was a talented athlete even at her Houston elementary school. She was a shortstop and part-time pitcher in youth league softball, positions that help her with hand-eye coordination even today, she said. When she was 11, Garrison signed up for an after-school tennis program at McGregor Park community center. Eight years later, she was the world's top-ranked juniors player.

Besides winning a Grand Slam title -- or two or three -- Garrison's goal is to introduce tennis to black children and other youngsters who aren't exposed to the sport. The Women's International Tennis Association often allows her a Tuesday opening match so she can spend Monday doing inner-city clinics.

"Things are changing a little bit in tennis, but not a lot," she said. "Tennis is still not visible in many homes. If you don't have cable, you don't see it much. I really think if the black community took interest, we'd see lots of new talent. I'd love to see someone with Michael Jordan's moves and Magic Johnson's hands on the tennis court."

Garrison is also committed to helping those less fortunate. The Zina Garrison Foundation in Houston raises money for the needy and promotes a drug-free lifestyle. Her most recent project, Houston Cover-Up, collected 13,000 blankets and sheets for the homeless.

Her Wimbledon success gave Garrison a boost of confidence going into next season. She has tentative plans to compete in all four Grand Slams -- Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open -- although she may choose not to enter the French.

"I've never done well there," she said. "We don't have red clay here, so it's hard to prepare. The older I get, the less fun I have there."

A strong Wimbledon showing has Zina Garrison lining up endorsements of her own.

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