Zowie, It's Zina in Slims - Garrison Finally Gets Best of Longtime Rival McNeil
The Daily Oklahoman
Monday, February 24, 1992
Zina Garrison finally beat longtime rival Lori McNeil and finally won a tournament. But it didn't come easy.
The two Houston natives gave The Greens crowd their money's worth and more before Garrison won a third-set tie-breaker 12-10 to collect the $27,000 top prize Sunday afternoon in the Virginia Slims of Oklahoma final.
"I was really lucky. It could have gone either way," Garrison said. "It's kind of different to go through the whole tournament and you haven't lost. It feels really good, but I've been working really hard. I've been waiting for something to happen."
It's Garrison's 11th career Kraft Tour title, but her first in 20 months. Garrison, winning the match 7-5, 3-6, 7-6, defeated McNeil for just the second time in seven career meetings.
"It's not so much beating Lori as much as winning, because I haven't won a tournament in a long time," Garrison said. "Even if it's a lesser tournament, I've been having trouble with people like Amy Frazier and Lori."
Momentum swung back and forth in the match-deciding tie-breaker. Garrison saved two match points, and McNeil saved three. The 2-hour, 17-minute match ended when McNeil hit a backhand shot into the net.
"If I had to pick out one thing, I kind of forced my two match points and rushed the net," McNeil said. "I could have been a little more patient."
McNeil was up 6-5 and 10-9 in the tie-breaker. Garrison led 7-6, 8-7 and 9-8. Garrison said she won't forget the 6-5 point. She ripped a backhand to the baseline.
"I looked (at the lineman). I was just praying the guy called it good," Garrison said. "I looked at Lori, and she was the doing the same thing. As soon as I saw her put her head down I knew it was in."
McNeil was serving for the match at 6-5 in the third set, but Garrison jumped on top love-30 en route to breaking her serve. It forced the tie-breaker.
"That was one of my better games. Before that, Lori was serving really well," Garrison said. "I just told myself, `I want to keep it low, hit through the ball,' and see what could happen."
McNeil and Garrison have played each other since they were 10 years old in a Houston parks and recreation program, so they know each other's games.
"It's emotional when we play. That's the difference when you play someone you know really well," McNeil said. "You have to try and keep your emotions under control."
It was an emotional week for Garrison, who said she liked being in the spotlight again as a No. 1 seed.
"But I've got a long, long way to go being No. 1 in other (Tier I) tournaments," Garrison said, laughing. "The good thing here was I got to play a lot of matches. I had the pressure, and I rose to the occasion. I need more matches like that."
McNeil, finishing as the runner-up here for the third time in addition to winning here in 1988, led in all three sets.
The Oklahoma State product led 5-2 in the first set, but Garrison won five straight games to win the set. McNeil grabbed the only service break in the second set to win 6-3, and led 4-2 in the third set.
"I'm starting strong, but I need a strong finish against top players," McNeil said, referring to a similar loss last week to Martina Navratilova. "If you give them a little space they'll make a run for it. I just need to keep learning."
Garrison had lost to McNeil 6-1, 6-3 last week in Chicago. The difference this time was that Garrison held a 24-15 edge in winners in the decisive third set.
"She killed me last week. It was a match where I just got beat," Garrison said. "Today I at least wanted to show up, and the first couple of games it was here we go again. But I served a lot better and played a lot smarter this time."
Ironically, McNeil won the doubles title on a third-set tiebreaker. McNeil and Nicole Provis defeated Manon Bollegraf and Kartina Adams 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (8-6). In singles, McNeil has moved up to No. 20 in the world rankings.
"Losses like this are disappointing, but you have to learn from them. I don't think people learn from their wins," McNeil said. "I need to work on my volleys. In retrospect, it's good I got to the finals, but it's real disappointing."
Virginia Slims of Oklahoma
At The Greens
Singles : Zina Garrison (1), Houston, Texas, def. Lori McNeil (3), Houston, Texas, 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 (10).
Doubles : Nicole Provis, Australia, and Lori McNeil, Houston, Texas, (1) def. Katrina Adams, Houston, Texas, and Minon Bollegraf, the Netherlands, 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (6).