LONG before condemnation over inflammatory same-sex marriage comments, grand slam record-holder Margaret Court had already been pushed to the margins.
Disparaged, not only for views, but also achievements. Margaret Court’s sin, apparently, was to win 13 of a record 24 grand slam singles titles as an amateur.
In the view of some, Margaret Court’s ability to beat fellow greats, including Billie Jean King and Maria Bueno as amateurs, is somehow not as worthy as repeating the feat when the trio competed as professionals from 1968.
It is akin to suggesting Rod Laver’s grand slam sweep in 1962, when the Queenslander claimed all four majors, is markedly inferior to his 1969 repeat sweep.
Like Laver, Don Budge, Steffi Graf and Maureen Connolly — the only players in history to win all four slams in the same season — Margaret Court had no control over who she beat.
The slur also insults the string of great players she beat. Yet, in so many different quarters, there are asterisks over her career. Curiously, there are no such queries against King or Bueno’s records. Nor should there be. Laver won six of his 11 majors as an amateur. There are no question marks over that.
Roger Federer was so inspired by Laver he agitated for an international teams event — the Laver Cup — to be struck in honour of the Queenslander.
Margaret, who won the Australian, French and US Opens as a mother, has never quibbled over cheap, uneducated smears. But they are persistent and nonsensical — and often venomously aired by those with vested interests in the women’s game.
With Serena Williams playing recently to try and join Margaret Court on 24 majors, it’s worth reflecting on just how accomplished Court was.
Court won a record 64 grand slam tournament titles, including 19 in doubles and 21 in mixed doubles.
She reached the quarters of 43 of 47 majors played and, since it matters so much more, she won 11 of the 16 Open Era grand slams she contested between 1969 and 1973.
As a mother in ’73, she won the Australian, French and US crowns, and lost in the Wimbledon semis.
In 1970, as a professional, she lifted 21 singles titles — a record which endures.
In all, Margaret won 192 singles titles from 1960-1977, another record.
Whatever her political and religious views, Margaret Court deserves the courtesy of having her tennis accomplishments measured in isolation.
Article written by Leo Schlink in London.