For the first time in eight years, Martina Navratilova didn't hook the big one.
"If this year was a fish," Navratilova said, "I would throw it back in."Navratilova failed to win a Grand Slam event for the first time since 1980, and the final flop in a disappointing year came Wednesday when Zina Garrison beat her for the first time in 22 tries.
Garrison's gutty 6-4, 6-7 (3-7), 7-5 quarterfinal victory sent the No. 2 seed to the sidelines of the U.S. Open, which she won the last two years and made the finals in the last five. Navratilova also lost in the quarterfinals at the French Open (to Natalia Zvereva), in the semifinals at the Australian Open (to Chris Evert) and to Steffi Graf in the Wimbledon finals, snapping her run of six straight titles there.
"She played the best match of her life and I didn't play well," Navratilova said. "That's what it was going to take for her to beat me. If you play someone that many times, they are bound to be on their game when I am not."
And she was not.
While Garrison played spectacularly in spots - she broke Navratilova in the 10th game to take the first set and jumped ahead 5-0 in the second set - Navratilova rarely showed the skills that made her one of the greatest players ever. She rallied more on guts than shotmaking, more on Garrison's mistakes than her own miracles.
"She started to come back and, before I knew it, the second set was gone," Garrison said. "But I've been keeping my composure pretty well during this tournament.
"I've always gotten up 3-0 against Martina and she's come back. I think the thing that hurt her is that I stayed in there and won the first set, no matter what.
"This is definitely my best," said the 24-year-old Garrison, seeded 11th and in her first Open semifinal. "I've lost to Martina 21 times."
Garrison faces No. 5 Gabriela Sabatini of Argentina on Friday. Sabatini struggled early, then put away No. 16 Larisa Savchenko of the Soviet Union 4-6, 6-4, 6-1.
Navratilova's loss seemed to open the way for Graf to finish off her Grand Slam without much trouble. The top seed from West Germany is within two match victories of the first Grand Slam since 1970.
Graf routed No. 14 Katerina Maleeva of Bulgaria 6-3, 6-0. She'll play No. 3 Evert, who beat Katerina's sister, sixth-seeded Manuela Maleeva, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2.
"I think any of the three have an even chance (of beating Graf), but they have to play the match of their life," Navratilova said. "Once I lost the match to Zina, I thought, `Oh well, so much for trying to stop her (Graf)."'
Among the men, No. 2 Mats Wilander beat Emilio Sanchez of Spain 3-6, 7-6 (8-6), 6-0, 6-4, and will play Darren Cahill of Australia in the semis on Saturday. Cahill knocked out Aaron Krickstein 6-2, 5-7, 7-6 (7-2), 5-7, 6-3.