LONDON, JULY 1 -- Twenty-five years ago, before anyone here heard of Chris and Martina, there was a Wimbledon final between Karen Hantze Sussman and Vera Sukova. The date was July 4, 1962. Sussman won in straight sets.

That morning, several thousand miles away in Baltimore, Pamela Howard Shriver was born. Today, a few yards from the spot where Sukova played that final, Shriver, three days shy of her 25th birthday, came up with one of the most satisfying and dramatic victories of her tennis career.

Her victim was Vera Sukova's oldest daughter, Helena, 22. For the second straight day, Shriver faced match point and won. For the second straight day, she lost the first set and won. For the second straight day, it seemed she played forever before winning a 10-8 third set.

It took two hours 25 minutes in a match filled with shrieks of joy and anguish, but Shriver got through it, 4-6, 7-6 (7-1), 10-8. "Given that it puts me in the Wimbledon semifinals and given the way I hung in, it has to rank as one of my best wins," Shriver said. "You know for a long time, I think I've been known around the locker room as an outgoing person, kind of fun but someone you can wait out in tight matches.

"Sometimes, though, reputations can die if you kill them."

Shriver's victory puts her into Thursday's semifinals against second-seeded Steffi Graf, who did her usual one-set sleepwalk against her doubles partner, Gabriela Sabatini, before winning, 4-6, 6-1, 6-1. The victory was Graf's 44th straight, and her eighth in eight matches against Sabatini, seven in three sets.

The other semifinal will match Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert. They will meet for the 73rd time (or is it the 730th) after easy victories today. Evert, who has looked shaky in the early rounds, played her best match of the tournament, beating Claudia Kohde-Kilsch, 6-1, 6-3. Navratilova had an even easier time with unseeded Diane Balestrat, 6-1, 6-2, in her fifth straight match of less than 60 minutes.

"I'm just happy to be playing well," Navratilova said. "I know it isn't as exciting, but that's fine with me. I'm happy to just go along quietly and sneak up on everybody. The quieter the better is fine with me."

Her quiet days are over now. Although she destroyed Evert in their last meeting four weeks ago at the French Open, any Navratilova-Evert meeting is a major event.

Evert made sure the match would happen by drubbing Kohde-Kilsch, raising her record against the 6-foot-2 West German to 13-0. At the net today, Kohde-Kilsch looked like a statue, lunging helplessly as one passing shot after another streaked by her. It became a ritual: Kohde-Kilsch would come in, Evert would pass, Kohde-Kilsch's shoulders would sag. She would walk back to the base line and begin the process again.

"When you sneak through a match the way I did yesterday, you automatically play better the next day," Evert said. "You bear down, you concentrate more. My experience has always been that when I win a close match after being on the brink of defeat, it helps me. I was much sharper today."

Evert's victory extended her remarkable Grand Slam record. She has played in 49 Grand Slam tournaments and reached the semifinal round in 48 of them. It is a record she is proud of.

"Ever since I've been 30 {she is 32 now}, I've been thinking, this could be my last Wimbledon," she said. "This one could be. I hope it isn't, but if it is I've had a good run. I have a good record here."

Her Wimbledon record is now 15 semifinals out of 16 and 10 finals in her previous 15 years with three championships. Beating Navratilova here, where she is 2-5 against her and has not beaten her since 1980, will be quite another story. Navratilova, looking for her sixth straight title and eighth overall, looks very strong.

Shriver looks weak, with good reason. She has played five hours in the last 24. After the match today, she had ice on her shoulder, elbow and wrist.

Shriver had to be sharper today than she had been in the fourth round against Sylvia Hanika. She had been baffled by Hanika's left-handed serve and easily could have been beaten, which would have been surprising and a little embarrassing.

Losing to Sukova would have been neither. Sukova is ranked fifth in the world, one spot higher than Shriver, and is a hot player. She beat Evert and Navratilova to win the Wimbledon warmup at Eastbourne and had destroyed her fourth-round opponent, Raffaela Reggi, 6-0, 6-0.

The matchup was one of almost identical styles. Shriver is 6 feet, Sukova, 6-2. Both play serve and volley and are vulnerable to chipped returns at their feet. The first set was strange -- five breaks of serve, the last one going to Sukova when she blasted a backhand at set point. Amazingly, that was the last break for 21 games.

"I thought for most of the match I was playing better than Pam," Sukova said. "I had a lot of chances to break her serve the last two sets, but I only did it once. At the end I was surprised that she was able to serve as well as she did."

Shriver almost didn't make it to that ending. At 5-all in the second set, Sukova had a break point that all but amounted to a match point. But Shriver twisted in a serve, Sukova couldn't get to it and Shriver held to lead, 6-5. Then she played a superb tie breaker, hitting two gorgeous shots -- a scooped forehand and lunging backhand volley -- to jump to a 3-0 lead. She ended the set with a clean ace down the middle.

"I really think that was the turning point," Shriver said. "Until then, she was stronger, I was having trouble with her serve. But after that I just kept chipping and chipping, and I gave her trouble the rest of the way."

She had a break point in Games 1, 3 and 7, but couldn't convert. Finally, in the ninth, on the fifth break point, Shriver slammed a backhand return down Sukova's throat to lead, 5-4, and serve for the match.

That was the first break in 22 games. The next one came a lot faster, five points later. Sukova played a textbook game, hitting four winning returns, three off first serves.

As Sukova's last return ripped past her, Shriver's shoulders sagged. "I thought then it was my match," Sukova said. "I thought after yesterday she would get tired in the end, but she never did."

In truth, Shriver did get tired. But she paced herself, took her time between points and played smart tennis. Nonetheless, serving at 6-7, she faced her third match point of the tournament when Sukova chipped a forehand return and Shriver volleyed wide.

Sukova, nervous, netted a forehand and Shriver easily served out the game. Shriver then got the break she had to have with two spectacular forehand returns. This time, she held easily. Sukova, exhausted, never put another ball in play.

So Shriver, who lost here in the semifinals to Evert in 1981 and has lost so often in Grand Slam matches like these, cried again. Only this time, it was for joy. And as she looked across the court at her sister, coach, former coach and agent, she held up two fingers.

Two days until her birthday? No. Two wins from a victory that would be the one present she has wanted for 25 years. TODAY'S FEATURED MATCHES Centre Court

Martina Navratilova (1), Fort Worth, vs. Chris Evert (3), Boca Raton, Fla.; Pam Shriver (5), Lutherville, Md., vs. Steffi Graf (2), West Germany; Carl Limberger and Mark Woodforde, Australia, vs. Stefan Edberg and Anders Jarryd, Sweden.