You know you're in trouble when the only thing you have going for you is a piece of rope.
Zina Garrison won all the points that rolled off the tape, but that's hardly enough against Martina Navratilova. The world's top-ranked tennis player won her 12th straight match from Garrison, who never has won a set against Navratilova.
The sellout crowd of 5,000 at George Washington University's Smith Center last night saw Navratilova, the top seeded player, advance to today's semifinals of the Virginia Slims of Washington with a 6-1, 6-2 victory over fifth-seeded Garrison that took only 58 minutes.
Third-seeded Claudia Kohde-Kilsch will be Navratilova's opponent in the 1 p.m. match after beating Bettina Bunge in last night's other quarterfinal, 6-4, 7-5.
Pam Shriver will play fourth-seeded Manuela Maleeva tonight at 7 in the other semifinal.
"I don't know, maybe she doesn't like me or something," Garrison said with a smile and a bit of resignation. "Every time I play her, it seems like she plays extremely well. And I've used just about everything."
As both players said, nothing in Garrison's game is all that dangerous to Navratilova. Garrison covers a court as well as anybody, but that is a defensive ability and not a strategy for beating Navratilova.
"My serve is more powerful and my first volley is stronger," said Navratilova. "She may be faster, I may be quicker. I just match up a little better in every department, but that tends to stack up."
Garrison broke Navratilova, after she was broken herself, to cut Navratilova's first-set lead to 2-1, but that was as close as it got.
Navratilova either held her serve or broke Garrison in each of the four remaining games of the first set.
"She hit her backhand really well," Garrison said, "especially her backhand passing shots down the line."
When Navratilova is passing as well as she's volleying, it's as good as over.
Navratilova broke Garrison for a 1-0 lead in the second set. Garrison tried a backhand down the line that hit the tape altering Navratilova's volley, and Garrison won the point. Navratilova walked to the net, looked underneath at the webbing and gave the cord a good swat.
It didn't respond.
Garrison hit a forehand passing shot that caught the white again, and rolled over once more. This time, even Garrison smiled.
"I was beginning to wonder," said Navratilova.
There was really no need to, and Navratilova knew it.
"She can't hurt me with anything and I usually beat her to the net," she said. "I play well against her all the time because her game doesn't bother me. Her serve is good but it's not like (Helena) Sukova serving at you at 6 foot 1.
"She'll run down a few more balls than other people, but I'll still win more points."
Garrison said she's going back to weight-training in an effort to put a bit more sting in her game.
"Everything is there in my game," Garrison said. "If my volley was just a little stronger . . . I was on top of the ball but there was not enough force on my volleys."
Bunge said she was a bit worn out from her second-round victory Friday night over eighth-seeded Kathy Rinaldi.
"I was trying so hard last night," Bunge said. "I just didn't have it today, I was just drained."
Bunge went up 4-2 in the first set when Kohde-Kilsch double-faulted on break point. But then, Bunge, as is her tendency, crumpled.
"I surprised myself, not taking advantage of her playing so badly," Bunge said. "Instead, I played even worse.
"I can play so well and then play so poorly, I feel like I could scream. Maybe I put too much pressure on myself," said Bunge, who is one of the faster players on the tour. "If I'm thinking too much, I can at least run, but today I couldn't do that, either."
"She was playing like that," Kohde-Kilsch said. "Even if she plays one or two games unbelievably or a few points unbelievably, I knew she'd also miss a few and that I should not give up."
Bunge said she had more trouble than the night before establishing a rhythm, and Kohde-Kilsch agreed.
"I was able to get some of it in the second set, but against her, it's hard to get in rhythm," Kohde-Kilsch said. "She either hits a winner or misses. We didn't have many long rallies."
After her double fault to go down 4-2, Kohde-Kilsch won six straight games.
"She double-faulted and missed a few shots, but I had thought I had lost the set," Kohde-Kilsch said. "I thought she might get nervous after Kohde-Kilsch's rally . I played a few more points and played much better."
Both Navratilova and Bunge agreed that Kohde-Kilsch's sometimes erratic serve will play a big role in today's semifinal match.
"She's pretty inconsistent with her serve and she sometimes doesn't know where it's going," Bunge said.
Navratilova has won 13 of the 15 meetings between the two. In 1981, Kohde-Kilsch handed Navratilova a rare first-round loss, at the Avon Championships in Oakland, Calif. Navratilova won the next 11, but Kohde-Kilsch surprised her last August in the Canadian Open quarterfinals with a 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 win. Their last match was in November on grass in Brisbane, Australia, and Navratilova won, 6-1, 6-4.
"Kohde's beaten me a couple times, and she's more dangerous because she's tall 6 feet one-half inch and overpowering," Navratilova said. "But she hasn't been serving well here. In Toronto, I think she served only one double fault in our whole match, which was three sets, and then she served a bundle in the finals," where she lost to Chris Evert Lloyd.
Kohde-Kilsch said she has to take the action to Navratilova.
"I have to play much more aggressive," she said. "I've played her often and I always have to try to get to the net first. She's too good at the net."
There is a fair chance Navratilova and Kohde-Kilsch will also be meeting in the doubles final Monday. Navratilova and Shriver, the No. 1 team, are in one semifinal today and Kohde-Kilsch and Sukova, the No. 2 team, in the other.