SAN DIEGO — Terry Phelps might someday find a way to beat Zina Garrison, the sixth-ranked women's tennis player in the world, but for now she will have to settle for another close match.
Phelps held off eight match points to force a third set before losing, 7-5, 6-7 (9-7), 6-0, in the second round of the Great American Bank tournament Wednesday night at the San Diego Tennis and Racquet Club.
"I didn't think I'd ever win that thing," Garrison said. "The difference was I was much stronger physically at the end. I was able to get to the balls in the third set, and she wasn't."
Garrison's 2 1/2-hour match was the latest in what has been a rough tournament for the seeded players.
After three days, only half of the eight seeded players remain. The latest to lose was No. 4 Patty Fendick of Sacramento, to Ann Grossman, 3-6, 7-5, 6-0, in the day's first second-round match.
And the only other seeded player in action, No. 7 Claudia Kohde-Kilsch of West Germany, played her second three-set match of the tournament before eliminating Isabelle Demongeot of France, 6-1, 3-6, 6-1.
Kohde-Kilsch earned the right to meet No. 1 Steffi Graf today a quarterfinal expected to begin about 1:30 p.m. That should mean another boost for attendance. With Graf having a day off, attendance dropped to 2,635 after averaging 3,905 for her first two matches.
Those who came saw another taut match between No. 2-seeded Garrison and Phelps. Garrison has won their five career meetings, but this was the third to last three sets; five of their 13 games have been decided by a tie-breaker.
"Terry is a good counter-puncher," Garrison said. "She never gives up. You have to stay on top of her all the time."
The same could be said of Grossman, who tenaciously battled back against Fendick.
Grossman dropped the final four games to lose the first set and let four set points get away before breaking Fendick to win the final game of the second set. She swept the final set to complete a streak of eight games in a row.
"This tournament is not going to be easy for me," Grossman said. "I've got to play my guts out."
The victory was a reminder of the kind of success she had here last year when, as a 17-year-old amateur, she came out of the qualifiers to advance to the final against Stephanie Rehe.
She lost, 6-1, 6-1, but the experience convinced her to turn professional. Since then, she has played 24 tournaments, more than any player on the tour.
Now she is back where it began. This is one farm girl from Grove City, Ohio, who finds the beaches of San Diego a comfortable change.
"I just feel at home here," Grossman said. "When I get to San Diego, I know I am going to play well."
As much as Grossman likes San Diego, Fendick would just as soon forget her experiences here.
She entered last year's tournament as the top-seeded player but withdrew in the middle of her first-round match with a strained calf muscle. This time, not only did she lose to Grossman, she had to endure the pestering of an overly friendly fan.
Fendick said the women asked for her autograph during a court change after the first game of the third set. Fendick declined. The women then proceed to loadly encourage Fendick while she was serving.
After the loss, the woman again approached for an autograph. Fendick again declined, this time not so politely.
"She said, 'I'm sorry. I didn't mean to break your concentration. Just sign this for me,' " Fendick said. "I told her, 'Get away from me before I take a swing.' "
The experience was not what Fendick needed as she works to return to top form after missing more than three months during the late winter and spring because of torn shoulder muscles.
"The first time back from an injury, I didn't know what to expect," Fendick said. "I've been told not to panic. But I'm panicking."
Robin White of Del Mar advanced to the quarterfinals, beating Wendy White of Fort Worth, Tex., 6-3, 6-4. She later teamed with Gretchen Magers of San Diego to reach the doubles semifinals by eliminating the top-seeded team of Patty Fendick and Jill Hetherington, 7-6 (9-7), 7-5.