Margaret Court on current era being ‘easier’, admiring Serena Williams the player, but not getting same response

Margaret Court

In a frank interview, Margaret Court has snipped back at suggestions that she competed in an easy era while she has also spoke out about her admiration for Serena Williams not being reciprocated.

The Australian turned professional in 1960 and competed until 1977, winning a total of 64 major titles – 24 Grand Slam singles, 19 Grand Slam women’s doubles and 21 Grand Slam mixed doubles titles.

With tennis’ Open Era only starting in 1968, 11 of Court’s 24 singles Grand Slams were won during the amateur days while many also believed that she won the majority of her titles when not too many players wanted to travel Down Under for the Australian Open.

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, the 80-year-old made it clear that the she feels the current era is far easier than when she competed.

“I would love to have played in this era. I think it’s so much easier,” she said. “How I would love to have taken family or friends along with me. But I couldn’t. I had to go on my own or with the national team. People don’t see all that.

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

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She added: “As amateurs, we had to play every week, because we didn’t have any money. Now, they can take off whenever they want, fly back whenever they want.

“We would be away for 10 months. That’s why I first retired in 1965, because I used to get homesick. You might be with the odd other person, but it’s not like having your family there.”

Court won a Calendar Grand Slam in 1970 as she won all four majors in a single season while she stepped away from the sport in 1972 to give birth to her first child. She returned in 1973 and won three Grand Slams.

The Australian’s career has often been compared to that of Serena Williams, who retired last week with 23 Grand Slam singles titles with many feeling the American is the greatest of all time.

However, Court doesn’t think she gets enough respect and feels the fact that her career spanned 17 years compared to Williams’ 27 years is understated.

“The 64 – I don’t think anyone will ever touch,” she said. “Serena has played seven years more than I did. I finished in my early 30s. People forget that I took two years out. I first retired like Ash Barty when I was 25, thinking I would never return to tennis. I got married, had a baby, but then had one of my best years, winning 24 out of 25 tournaments.”

The 80-year-old added: “I came back after two babies. After having the first baby, I won three out of the four Slams… Serena hasn’t won a Slam since [she gave birth].”

Court, though, does have respect Williams the player, but the American has never returned the love.

“Serena, I’ve admired her as a player,” she said. “But I don’t think she has ever admired me.”

As for criticism that no too many professionals travelled to Australia for the season-opening Grand Slam in days gone past, Court is impressed.

“I often hear Billie Jean [King] saying that people didn’t come down to Australia in my early years,” she said. “But Maria Bueno, the world No 1, came down. So did Christine Truman, Ann Haydon, Darlene Hard. Plus, Australia had some wonderful players. We had five girls in the top 10. Lesley Bowrey won two French Opens.”

The Australian is working as a church pastor in Perth, but she is far from a favourite both in tennis and sporting circles due to her controversial comments on homosexuality and race with tennis great Martina Navratilova describing her as a “homophobe and racist”.

“A lot of the press and television today, particularly in tennis, don’t want to mention my name,” Court said. “The honour has not been there for what I did do. In my own nation, I have been given titles, but they would still rather not mention me.”