Zina garrison it is one of those sometimes forgotten names whose importance transcends the tennis sphere. In 1990, this American player reached the final of Wimbledon after leaving Monica Seles and Steffi Graf in the gutter. It was, for her, an edition of records, records that she established and others that she broke, within a career in which she followed in the footsteps of Althea Gibson and became the second African-American player to compete in a Grand Slam final. Of course: not everything was a path of roses.
Zina was part of that group of American tennis players who stand out from a very young age. In fact, skipped his high school graduation to play his first professional tournament, neither more nor less than Roland Garros. That sudden jump to stardom was interrupted by one of the worst news a person can receive: the death of her mother when she was alone. 19 years. From that time until he turned 28, Garrison would suffer from bulimia due to the trauma caused by the loss of her mother. Her tennis was beginning to flourish, but her mind suffered.
“I had never felt completely good about my appearance and felt that I had lost the only person who loved me unconditionally,” he would declare years after his retirement. “The pressure of being called ‘the next Althea Gibson’ made it all worse. It seemed like I was never going to be given the right to become myself. “. However, as we say, Garrison began to win tournaments, to get carried away on the track and build a reputable career despite his eating disorders. “I don’t know how I did it. I look back in time and I still have no idea. I also look back and think of some games that I could have won and that I had no energy to win,” he told The Guardian recently.
Zina still admits that she lives with episodes of dehydration, which must be careful. Throughout the 1980s, she faced some of the best racquets in history. Her highest point would come in a tournament that would make her look from you to you. I was well wedged between top ten in the worldHe had been an Olympic medalist … but Wimbledon had reserved for him a place among the best. Although, who would say that would happen according to Garrison’s thoughts just the week before.
“Sometimes we tennis players have moments when we cannot pass the ball over the net, nothing comes out and we are totally out of my mind. I had one of those weeks when I thought:” If I leave it tomorrow, it will seem good to me “recalls the week before the 1990 edition. In the quarterfinals, Garrison defeated Monica Seles, 9-7 in the third set after saving the game ball. Seles had come from winning Roland Garros and accumulated a streak of 32 consecutive victories.
In the semifinals, the most difficult one was also made possible: 6-3, 3-6 and 6-4 before Steffi Graf. The German record for 13 consecutive Grand Slam finals? More than shot down. Meanwhile, Garrison became the first and, ultimately, the only player to defeat Seles and Graf in the same Grand Slam tournament consecutively. As I said before, records that are broken and others that are created.
Ahead of the final, the African American received a call from Reebok the night before your game. She had been playing Wimbledon in Nike clothing borrowed from Martina Navratilova… your opponent in the last duel. Zina signed her first contract with a sports brand just before the most important day of her life. In the final, Martina overcame her (6-4, 6-1) but Garrison would have had one of her biggest wins. A victory that, yes, reflected a discriminatory brand that he had learned to endure throughout the 1980s.
“For five yearsEven when I reached number four in the world, I had no contract. I knew perfectly what was happening, I was always told: “if you reach ‘x’ ranking you will achieve it, always if you reach a certain round, you know? You had white girls behind me, making much more money when their ranking or consistency they were non-existent. ” Sports agents believed that Garrison did not have that ‘x factor’ that made her a marketing figure. Not even to sign for a clothing brand.
The other major episode of racism that Zina has encountered occurred long after her tennis career ended. He arrived with her at the controls of the US Fed Cup team, back in 2009. Garrison sued the USTA for racial discrimination after realizing they were paying a much lower salary than Davis Cup team captain Patrick McEnroe.
“They told me at the time that this did not happen. No one supported me. The people, behind the cameras, told me stories, but there was no one who really stood up. There were only two people, at that time, who were willing to declare: Billie Jean King and Venus Williams. It was hard for me, but in short, I wasn’t crazy. Things have improved, but sometimes people have a wrong idea because there are a couple of black players on top. They tell you that “it’s not so bad, look at Venus and Serena”. Just because there are a couple of great players doesn’t mean the problems have been solved. “
Zina currently owns a tennis academy in Houston, through which she helps ethnic minorities and young players take their first steps in the sport. In conclusion, it could be said that Zina garrison She is one of the pioneers of African American women’s tennis, owner of a final at Wimbledon, victories against all the greats of her time and a story behind that leaves you speechless. Not bad for someone who didn’t have that ‘x factor’.