WIMBLEDON, ENGLAND, JULY 3 -- A hush fell over Wimbledon today, the otherworldly shrieks of Monica Seles fading with her exit from the tournament. The Yugoslavian teenager was upset by Zina Garrison in the quarterfinals, her 36-match winning streak ending with a last hopeless grunt after three sets and nearly two and a half hours.
More attention was paid to the curious noises emitted by third-seeded 16-year-old Seles and her rise to No. 3 in the world than to the 26-year-old Garrison's unassuming progress through the tournament. But the fifth-seeded American played a final set that was an essay in veteran determination, killing a match point with a sweeping forehand winner to finish a 3-6, 6-3, 9-7 comeback and reach the second Wimbledon semifinal of her career. There waits top-ranked Steffi Graf.
"Oh, gee, this was such a close match," Seles said. "It's a little difficult when you're out there three hours and then you lose on one or two points."
Seles could take heart in the fact that a loss to Garrison in a Grand Slam quarterfinal is no great shame, nor unprecedented. Garrison is amassing an intriguing record of upsets. She defeated Chris Evert in the quarterfinals of last year's U.S. Open to send her into retirement. She shocked Martina Navratilova in the quarterfinals of the 1988 Open. But Garrison never has followed up her victories, still seeking her first major final.
"I've always had chances but never that itty-bitty breakthrough," she said.
Their 2-hour 22-minute match was the most absorbing one yet in the women's draw. It was nearly equaled in length, but not quality, by No. 4 Gabriela Sabatini's marathon victory over No. 11 Natalia Zvereva today, 6-2, 2-6, 8-6, after 2:03. Sabatini twice recovered from service breaks in the final set by attacking the net with surprising verve. Zvereva, who served for the match at 5-3, yielded with a stream of errors that were sometimes forced by Sabatini's extreme pace, and sometimes inexplicable.
"When I was down, 3-5, I thought maybe I had lost," Sabatini told Argentine reporters. "I just decided to go to the net."
Otherwise the tournament has been so much chaff for Graf and No. 2 Navratilova, who moved one round closer to each other with their usual ease. Graf dismissed No. 13 Jana Novotna after a temporary lapse, dropping her serve to open the match before collecting herself, 7-5, 6-2. She was not bothered by that so much as she was by the lost opportunity to play Seles, who has defeated her in straight sets in their last two meetings and badly shaken her confidence.
"To tell the truth I was hoping to play against her badly," Graf said. "I am a little disappointed about it."
Navratilova, at 33 the oldest player in the tournament, became Wimbledon's all-time leader in singles victories among women with her 97th, over No. 7 Katerina Maleeva, 6-1, 6-1. Evert has 96.
It was a devastation, Maleeva able to win only 25 points. She had upset Navratilova in the semifinals of the Virginia Slims of Houston on clay this season, but Navratilova's play today on her beloved grass was perhaps a testament to the scope of her ambition to win a record-breaking ninth Wimbledon. She needed just 47 minutes, and made the semifinals against Sabatini without dropping a set.
"I'm not complaining," Navratilova said. "I don't get paid by the minute."
Garrison's victory cut short an intimidating stretch of dominance by Seles, who was widely expected to be Graf's opponent. Seles's streak is the longest in tennis this season, and she had won six straight tournaments, upsetting Navratilova in the Italian Open and Graf in the German and French open finals this spring.
But she dealt good-naturedly with the defeat, after her feisty comeback from a 2-4 deficit and two service breaks in the final set, only to commit six tired errors in the last two games. It was a vast improvement over her performance here last year, when she was brought to tears by Graf in the quarterfinals, 6-1, 6-0.
"I mean, it's okay," Seles said. "For 10 minutes maybe it's a little difficult. Tomorrow it will probably be better."
After Garrison's error-prone, thoughtless first set, it seemed Seles would go on to another overwhelming victory like her straight-set beating of Garrison in the third round of last year's French Open, their only previous meeting. Garrison likened today's first set to "being hit by something, I don't know what."
But Garrison exposed some interesting and previously unnoticed weaknesses in Seles's lacerating, two-fisted game. She doesn't like low slices, unable to generate pace, and is distinctly uncomfortable at the net. Garrison settled down to execute a discerning game plan, chipping relentlessly and drawing Seles forward, then passing her. Seles also was not used to her rapid strokes being sent back, Garrison using her famed speed to reach the corners for some seemingly impossible retrieves.
The third set belonged to anybody, with seven frantic service breaks. Seles came out the loser as they exchanged four in the first five games, dropping her serve with sloppy errors in the third and fifth to fall behind by 1-4. But Seles is among the grittiest competitors on tour, while Garrison has struggled with a disturbing habit of losing leads, citing four occasions this season when she faltered while ahead. Seles promptly swept four games with a series of punishing winners to surge to a 5-4 advantage.
"I probably said the wrong thing to myself, but I felt she was probably going to come back to 4-4," Garrison said. "I just said to myself to bear down, whatever the consequences are, give it the best."
When Seles threatened to break in the 14th game, and Garrison took a frightening fall as she chased after a massive punched forehand cross, the match appeared over. Garrison rose from the grass slowly, brushed herself off, and hurried a flat forehand into the net to give Seles her match point.
But Garrison chipped a short ball, Seles charged it, and Garrison brushed a forehand inside-out down the line for deuce. She then buried another forehand winner in the opposite corner for the ad point, and a third staggering forehand pass gave her the game.
"I just said to myself I'm going to go for it and if I make it great, and if I don't at least I know I went for it," Garrison said.
Seles was weary-armed. Garrison got the decisive break as Seles drove three straight ground strokes into the net. She then held at love for the match, Seles looping a last backhand deep.
"It all happened so quickly," Seles said. "I mean, I was out there almost three hours, and then I just finished."
Ivan Lendl (1), Greenwich, Conn., def. Alex Antonitsch, Austria, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4; Brad Pearce, Provo, Utah, def. Mark Woodforde, Australia, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.
Steffi Graf (1), West Germany, def. Jana Novotna (13), Czechoslovakia, 7-5, 6-2; Martina Navratilova (2), Aspen, Colo., def. Katerina Maleeva (7), Bulgaria, 6-1, 6-1; Gabriela Sabatini (4), Argentina, def. Natalia Zvereva (11), Soviet Union, 6-2, 2-6, 8-6; Zina Garrison (5), Houston, def. Monica Seles (3), Yugoslavia, 3-6, 6-3, 9-7.
TODAY'S FEATURED MATCHES
Lendl vs. Pearce; Brad Gilbert (7), Piedmont, Calif., vs. Boris Becker (2), West Germany.
Kevin Curren, Austin, Tex., vs. Goran Ivanisevic, Yugoslavia; Stefan Edberg (3), Sweden, vs. Christian Bergstrom, Sweden.