Margaret Court defends tennis record following Serena Williams farewell, says admiration is not reciprocated

Australian Margaret Court thinks she doesn’t get as much credit from the tennis world as she deserves for her 24 Grand Slam singles titles and that Serena Williams does not return his admiration.

Williams – who holds 23 Slam titles, one less than the record set by the Court from 1960 to 1973 – was celebrated in many quarters as the greatest female tennis player of all time following what should be her latest appearance at Flushing Meadows after recently telling the world she was ready to start ‘evolving’ away from her playing days. Williams, who turns 41 this month, was knocked out of the US Open at the third round by Ajla Tomljanovic Friday night, a game in which she fended off five match points to extend proceedings for more than three hours.

“Serena, I looked up to her as a player,” Court, 80, told Britain’s Daily Telegraph in a rare interview. “But I don’t think she ever looked up to me.”

Court said she became a persona non grata in the world of tennis due to her Christian beliefs, which led her to oppose same-sex marriage when it was proposed in Australia.

“A lot of press and TV today, especially in tennis, don’t want to mention my name,” she said. “The honor hasn’t been there for what I’ve done. In my own nation I’ve been given titles, but they still prefer not to mention me.”

Court also defended her achievements against suggestions that they were not comparable to Williams’s as she played primarily in the amateur era.

“Serena has played seven years older than me,” Court said. “I finished in my early thirties. People forget I took two years off. I first retired… when I was 25, thinking I would never come back to tennis.

“I got married, had a baby, but then had one of my best years, winning 24 out of 25 tournaments.”

Court pointed out that she had a superior record to Williams after they became mothers during their careers.

“I came back after two babies,” she said. “After having my first baby, I won three out of four Grand Slams.” She added that “Serena hasn’t won a Slam since” she had a baby.

Williams’ last Slam came in 2017 at the Australian Open, which she won while eight weeks pregnant with daughter Olympia and without dropping a set.

Court, during the interview, also took aim at suggestions that his 11 Australian Open singles titles were worth less than Williams’ seven.

“I often hear Billie Jean [King] saying people weren’t coming to Australia in my early years,” Court said. “But Maria Bueno, the world No. 1, went down. Just like Christine Truman, Ann Haydon, Darlene Hard. Also, Australia had some wonderful players. We had five girls in the top 10. Lesley Bowrey won two Roland-Garros.”

Court said she believed life as a top tennis player was actually harder in her day.

“I would have loved to play back then. I think it’s so much easier,” she said. “How I would have liked to take my family or my friends with me. But I couldn’t. I had to go alone or with the national team. People don’t see all that.

“We didn’t have any psychologists or coaches with us. It’s a whole other world. That’s what disappoints me – that today’s players don’t honor the past of the game.”

Court said she was disappointed that Williams made little mention of her Australian opponent, Tomljanovic, after her alleged last match at the US Open.

“I thought it was wrong that Williams didn’t mention her opponent more when she was speaking,” Court said. “We were taught to honor our opponent. We respected each other.”

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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