HOUSTON, JULY 5 -- A summer shower, typical of the Gulf coast of Texas this time of year, had made the usually busy tennis courts at MacGregor Park unusually quiet this morning.

"Weren't many folks using them anyway," said Ralph Timmons, 52, a Parks Department employee. "They're all inside watching Zina. I would be too, but I've got work."

Inside the Homer Ford Tennis Center clubhouse, Timmons's statement was immediately confirmed. Approximately two dozen people, young and old, crowded around a small color television to watch one of their own -- Zina Garrison -- upset top-seeded Steffi Graf in the semifinals of Wimbledon.

"Oh man, I can't get over it," said Malvern Williams, 46. "I remember when she and Lori {McNeil} were this high" -- he put his hand about three feet from the ground -- "playing here on these courts and talking about playing professionally some day.

"And now to sit here and watch her beat Steffi Graf at Wimbledon on national TV. It's almost unbelievable. This is fantastic for the entire city."

Plenty of Houstonians were saying the same thing. Garrison was a local favorite even before she became the first black to win a junior Wimbledon title nine years ago. Today's victory further galvanized her support in the Bayou City.

At a bus stop near the corner of MacGregor Way and Calhoun Street, three women chatted about Garrison while vowing not to miss her Saturday final against Martina Navratilova.

"I had tears, just immediate tears of joy when it was over," said Carol Middleton, 37. "I feel so very proud of her. She has had some tough disappointments but I think with her marriage she is finally getting the emotional support she was missing." Garrison recently wed Houston's Willard Lee Jackson, who was in the friends' box at Centre Court today.

Even preparations for next week's economic summit are taking a back seat to Garrison.

City employee Willie Jackson, no relation to Garrison's husband, spent the day mowing grass alongside freeways. "Word is spreading fast; I heard about Zina on the radio, and like everybody else in this town I'm proud of her," he said.

A group of teenagers on one of MacGregor's basketball courts played three-on-three to the strains of rap music from a radio. Moments later a news bulletin informed all within earshot of Garrison's triumph.

"You hear that?" said Louis McKey, 17. "Zina beat Graf. Hey, way to go Z, all right."

Over at the First Home Mortgage Company, Garrison's sister brought her television to work. Garrison's parents are deceased. The other brothers and sisters were busy phoning each other for news about Zina, the baby of the family.

"The whole office was in here watching and cheering," said Clara Garrison Turner. "This is fantastic. I'm so happy and excited."

Turner's daughter, 6-year-old Rosemary, predicted her aunt would defeat Graf. "She did, the same way she predicted Zina would beat Martina two years ago at the U.S. Open," Turner said. "Zina called me and told me not to bother to fly up, she was playing Martina, but Rosemary said Zina was going to win so we went and Zina won."

"I can't wait to wake her Saturday and ask her who's going to win."

Turner said she hasn't talked to her sister since Saturday, but sensed a change in Garrison's attitude from previous years.

"She has matured," Turner said. "She realizes with all the young players coming in now if she's going to make her move she's got to do it now. In the past she hasn't been focused. She's had it in the back of her mind that she couldn't win the big one. This year she has been a lot more positive."

Tennis addict Crystal Moore, 17, idolizes Garrison. "She did it, and I'm going to do it too," Moore promised. "She started right here and made it all the way. It doesn't matter if she loses Saturday; she's still my favorite."

John Wilkerson sat in front of the television in his living room and compared the scrawny 11-year-old he discovered in 1975 with the young woman on the screen.

He coached Garrison until they split about two years ago. It was an amicable parting, and Wilkerson was telling everyone who would listen three weeks ago that Garrison would make the Wimbledon final.

"No doubt it makes me feel good," he said. "She's been so determined lately and she's such an accomplished grass-court player I just felt this was her time." He laughed. "It's been just like I'm sitting here coaching again and she's the same Zina. . . . I'd say the word that best describes my feeling right now is fantastic.

"This is a great day for this city, but the tragedy will be if we don't develop more Zinas and Loris through programs like MacGregor's. There are other 11-year-olds in this city who are hungry, who are like the Zina I met 15 years ago. Zina has put us on the map. Now we need to see that others can follow in her footsteps."