WIMBLEDON, England -- The depth of women's tennis forever has been under scrutiny, from the years of King and Court, through Evert and Navratilova and now with Seles and Graf.
Yesterday's round of 16 at Wimbledon might have been an indication that the top players are starting to find a little competition. Or maybe they were just looking ahead.
Though none wound up losing, several of the top seeds were pushed to the brink, and others were in a fight for at least a set. Only 13th seed Zina Garrison, a finalist here two years ago but struggling of late, lost.
"I think you have to give credit to the opponents," said defending champion Steffi Graf.
For the third straight match, nine-time champion Martina Navratilova saw her concentration wane for a short while. This time, it came early during her match against Yayuk Basuki of Indonesia.
But Navratilova broke Basuki's serve in the final game of the first set and went on to a 7-5, 6-2 victory at near-empty Centre Court, which had cleared out for afternoon tea after Jeremy Bates' loss to Guy Forget.
"I had to create my own excitement," Navratilova said.
It put Navratilova, seeded fourth, into today's quarterfinals against 12th-seeded Katerina Maleeva of Bulgaria, a 6-0, 6-3 winner against Julie Halard of France. It was in the same round last year that Navratilova was upset by Jennifer Capriati.
"I know what happened last year, and I don't want that to happen again," said Navratilova, 35. "If I do, the gig's up."
The gig was nearly up for Capriati yesterday. After winning the first set and dropping the second in her match against Naoko Sawamatsu of Japan, Capriati was down 4-3 in the third. Sawamatsu, a respectable 35th in the world, was serving.
"I didn't want to lose in the round of 16," Capriati, 16 and seeded sixth, said after twice breaking Sawamatsu back and holding on for a 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 victory. "It puts me in a fighting mood."
That is the mood she would like to be in when she faces third-seeded Gabriela Sabatini in a quarterfinal today. Sabatini, who along with Seles and Maleeva has not dropped a set, won yesterday over Kristin Godridge of Australia, 6-2, 6-1.
Graf, looking for her fourth Wimbledon title, certainly is match-tough going into her quarterfinal against Natalia Zvereva of the Commonwealth of Independent States. She had her second straight three-setter yesterday, a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory over Patty Fendick. Zvereva had beaten Garrison, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1.
"I didn't serve very well in the first set," Graf said. "I gave her a lot of chances to get into the match. I couldn't get it going in the beginning, but she definitely played a good match."
Two players who didn't meet much resistance yesterday -- in fact, one hasn't been challenged yet at all here -- will meet in the other quarterfinal. Top-seeded, top-ranked Monica Seles defeated Gigi Fernandez, 6-4, 6-2, and 14th seed Nathalie Tauziat of France had no problems with Amy Frazier, winning the first seven games in a 6-0, 6-3 victory.
Asked if she is looking ahead to the final, Seles said: "I don't want to look that far. I mean I don't think I've done anything else differently. I think I'm playing great between the first round and the fourth round. It's just that I've got a lot of grass matches and I'm feeling more comfortable as I go further and further."
As the tournament progresses, it seems inevitable that the top four seeds will end up in Thursday's semifinals. Sabatini has beaten Capriati eight of 11 times, and Navratilova has been victorious five of six times over Maleeva.
The other two would be even bigger upsets. Graf is 9-0 against Zvereva -- including a 6-0, 6-0 shutout in their first meeting at the 1988 French Open final -- and Seles has won both of her matches against Tauziat, both in straight sets.