Garrison grabs US Open tennis spotlight

The name ``Zina,'' pronounced ZEE-nuh, has a verve about it that is perfect for a tennis player. During the last two weeks, Zina Garrison has lived up to her name, too, advancing to the US Open semifinals for the first time in a seven-year pro career that has begged for a headline-making result since she made the 1985 Wimbledon semis. That she got it in New York, a year after being the loser in a poorly showcased fourth-round match that was one of the best and most intriguing of the 1987 tournament, perhaps made it all the sweeter. Wearing a bright yellow outfit and squeezing a pink racket grip, Garrison toppled defending champion Martina Navratilova in a dramatic three-setter, 6-4, 6-7, 7-5.

It marked the first time Garrison had ever beaten Navratilova in 22 tries, and the score was reminsicent of the suspenseful outcome of Zina's 7-6, 3-6, 7-6 loss to friend and doubles partner Lori McNeil at the '87 Open. This latter match, some observers felt, should have received a center-court rather than a field-court assignment, since it pitted two outstanding black players, who learned the game at the same public complex in Houston.

McNeil had basically been in Garrison's shadow up to that point, but vaulted into the limelight by advancing to the Open semis by beating Chris Evert. McNeil decided thereafter to break off the doubles partnership, and Garrison, who will play in the Olympics, believes the decision to go their separate ways has actually benefitted her game and personality, to say nothing of improving her motivation.

Today she faces Gabriela Sabatini to determine who earns the right to meet either Evert or Steffi Graf in the final. Cloud over the NFL

The National Football League appears to be facing a small crisis in the form of continuing revelations of drug and alcohol abuse by major stars. This week the big names ordered to sit out for 30 days are Chicago defensive end Richard Dent, the MVP of Super Bowl XX, and Los Angeles Rams running back Charles White, the NFL's leading rusher last season. Before them, two premier defensive players, Dexter Manley of the Redskins and Lawrence Taylor of the Giants, were handed suspensions. In all, 17 players have been grounded for being repeat offenders. As the numbers grow, so too does the the potential for turning off fans, who may find the idea of supporting a ``dirty'' league distasteful. Hawkeye in bull's-eye

On the surface, Iowa's 1988 football opener against the University of Hawaii in Honolulu may have looked like a combination tuneup/romp in the surf. But if the nationally ranked Hawkeyes expected to ease into the season, they were rudely mistaken, because Hawaii (only 5-7 a year ago) upset them, 27-24.

Iowa nearly averted defeat twice in the last minute, but a go-ahead touchdown pass with 40 seconds left was nullified by a holding penalty, and a 43-yard field goal attempt just missed with 21 seconds remaining.

In the defeat's aftermath, Iowa coach Hayden Fry could be the target of more than barbs by Hawkeye rooters. He has raised money for a farm scholarship fund by selling posters of himself. The life-size edition goes for $30, the desk-top model for $6, and George Wine, the school's sports information director, predicted Fry's likeness would be ``in the corner of every rec room in Iowa.''

``Yeah,'' the coach said cynically at the time, ``and if we lose a game, they'll be throwing darts at them.''

Another coach who feels a bit embarrassed is Florida State's Bobby Bowden. His team, a preseason No. 1 choice, was supposed to be able to handle Miami, which lost 12 NFL draft picks off the roster that edged Florida State for last season's top ranking. The Seminoles, though, were totally outplayed in a 31-0 defeat that eliminates them from national title contention.

The Hurricanes, who are 6-0 against No. 1 teams in this decade, have now won 34 consecutive regular-season games, dating back to 1985. They have a week off before playing Michigan in Ann Arbor. Michigan, which takes on Notre Dame this weekend, hopes to help snap the conference's 0-4 run thus far. Besides Iowa, other Big Ten losers last weekend were Wisconsin to Western Michigan, Northwestern to Duke, and Illinois to Washington State. This, remember, is the league with an automatic Rose Bowl berth.

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