Houston Treasure for 2019
Photo by: Evin Thayer Studios
Zina Garrison got her start with tennis in the Sunnyside neighborhood of Houston at age 10 when she stumbled upon John Wilkerson’s free tennis program in MacGregor Park. Zina would overcome more than most tennis players, breaking many barriers for young black women from a community that had seen limited success in the sport of tennis. When she retired from professional tennis in 1996, with 14 top-level singles titles and 20 top-level doubles titles, she devoted her life to giving back to her community by founding the Zina Garrison All Court Tennis Foundation and the Zina Garrison Foundation for the Homeless. She had founded the Zina Garrison Academy (ZGA) in 1992 to pay forward the opportunities that she was afforded as a youngster. ZGA provides young Houstonians 45 weeks of free programming each year, including tennis instruction, college prep classes, wellness and nutrition lessons, and interactive garden instruction.
Zina arrived on the tennis scene in 1981 winning both Wimbledon and US Open junior titles and taking the number one junior rankings. A year later, she skipped her high school graduation to begin her professional career at the French Open; then she reached the semifinals at her first Australian Open. She finished out 1983 ranked World No. 10, remaining there until 1995.
Zina and partner, Pam Shriver, won the 1988 Olympic gold medal in women’s doubles, while Zina won bronze in singles. Zina’s game peaked at Wimbledon in 1990 when she won her third Grand Slam mixed doubles title. In singles, she defeated defending French Open champion Monica Seles and World No. 1 Steffi Graf to reach the Wimbledon finals against Martina Navratilova.
In 1993, Zina was appointed by President Bill Clinton to serve on the Council of Physical Fitness and Sports. She served on the United States Tennis Association (USTA) for four years and was the two-time Director at Large of the USTA (2001-2002, 2003-2004). She went on to be Fed Cup Captain and Olympic Captain and led both teams to championships and a gold medal.