In a recent interview for Telegraph, Margaret Court revealed a thought-provoking perspective regarding Serena Williams.
Despite sharing the global stage when it comes to ground-breaking tennis accomplishments, Margaret Court and Serena Williams have had very different career paths. In the exclusive interview, Court revealed some eye-opening details regarding how she felt about Serena Williams on both a professional and personal level; “I’ve admired her as a player, but I don’t think she has ever admired me,” the 24-time singles Grand Slam champion told the press.
Margaret Court vs. Serena Williams: Unique challenges of the times
Each era brings with it unique challenges and circumstances that tennis players must contend with to reach the top. While Serena Williams has undoubtedly had her fair share of personal challenges, particularly growing up in Compton, California, Margaret Court has had her own obstacles that many of us could not relate to today. In particular, the Australian revealed she “would love to have played in this era,” referring to the greater difficulties involved with traveling during her time.
Indeed, one of the overlooked aspects of Margaret Court’s career was the fact that travel was more limited than it is today, and staying connected with loved ones was a far greater challenge. Tennis players also did not earn as much money as they do now, meaning they needed to compete frequently to make ends meet as amateurs. Margaret Court revealed she suffered from homesickness which led her to temporarily retire from the sport in 1965.
Margaret Court won more Grand Slams in shorter career
Serena Williams announced her retirement from tennis in 2022 at the age of 40, having competed in what was likely her final Grand Slam at the US Open. Margaret Court pointed out that Serena Williams had played for seven years more than she had, retiring at 40 compared to the Aussie who retired at 35. Furthermore, the records stretch beyond just singles, with Court having won 64 majors in total compared to Williams’ 39 majors.
For this reason, Margaret Court had good reason to claim “the 64, I don’t think anyone will ever touch” referring to her Grand Slam titles won across singles, doubles, and mixed doubles. Given the incredibly wide gap between Court’s and Williams’ records as a whole, as well as the unique challenges faced by both players during their time on tour, no one can objectively claim that Williams was superior to Court based on stats alone.
Debating the Australian Open title value: Then vs. now
Regardless, one claim from Billie Jean King revealed the possibility of the Australian Open, an event dominated by Margaret Court during her time, being a “minor league” compared to what it is today. The American explained that the world’s best players wouldn’t travel down to Australia as it was far away from the rest of the world and a relatively new tournament on the tour. However, Margaret Court disputes this by mentioning that former world No.1 Maria Bueno often came down to the Australian Open, among other great players such as Christine Truman, Ann Haydon, and Darlene Hard.
Margaret Court also went on to explain that there were more Top 10 players who were Australian than there are today, making the local competition tough in and of itself, even without entrants from overseas. Regardless of whether the Australian Open was more or less challenging back then than it is today, it remains true that Serena Williams has had a more balanced spread of Grand Slam singles victories across different surfaces. During Court’s time, every tournament was played on grass except for the French Open which was always played on clay.
In spite of that fact, there is little evidence to suggest that the more versatile surfaces of today’s game would have affected Margaret Court’s astounding records. Furthermore, we can see that the wildly different surface of the French Open’s clay had little effect on Court’s accomplishments, as she won five titles in Paris compared to Serena Williams’ three. As such, Court’s vast success in Australia was likely not so much a home ground advantage as it was the absence of traveling far away from friends and family, a concept that carried more weight than it does today.
Margaret Court vs. Serena Williams: Who was better at juggling motherhood and tennis?
One of the most famous success stories of Serena Williams is how she won the Australian Open in 2017 while being 20 weeks pregnant with her daughter Olympia. While nothing can ever take away this accomplishment from her, the truth is Williams has mentioned that she would have had a longer and more successful career if she were a guy. It would not be the first time the 23-time Grand Slam champion brought up sexism in tennis, having accused the umpire of treating her differently from the men during her match with Naomi Osaka at the 2018 US Open finals.
Regardless of her claims, Margaret Court has still had a more difficult bout with pregnancies than Serena Williams overall. She may not have won a Grand Slam while carrying a child, but Court had switched between tennis and motherhood multiple times throughout her career. “After having the first baby, I won three of the four Slams. And Serena hasn’t won a Slam since,” Court said, making reference to the fact that Williams had not won a major since becoming a mother.
Controversy and backlash: Who was a better role model?
In recent times and long after her retirement, Margaret Court had become the center of public backlash because of her comments regarding the LGBT community. Naturally, this sparked a push from various sectors to have Margaret Court Arena renamed as to take her away from the spotlight. While many agree with this sentiment, there are also those who believe that Court’s personal views should not be intertwined with her tennis accomplishments, as they are completely separate matters.
In the Telegraph interview, Margaret Court revealed she “still gets bullied by LGBT groups,” explaining that despite helping the poor, some companies refuse to support the church because of the controversy associated with her name. The 80-year-old Australian also revealed she did not receive the same type of reception as a Grand Slam record holder that Serena Williams received, despite having a greater record. Court revealed that nobody approached her or talked to her at the 2022 Wimbledon event and also mentioned a reluctance from the press and television to mention her name unless forced to.
Serena Williams is also no stranger to controversy, having been the center of drama during her US Open final against Naomi Osaka in 2018. The American was penalized for racquet abuse, sideline coaching, and umpire abuse which led to a costly game penalty. Throughout her career, Serena Williams has always fought for equal rights, but her approach and emotional outbursts often led to accusations of being a poor role model for younger generations. Regardless, the tennis world is split when it comes to who they deem as the better role model between Serena Williams and Margaret Court.
As far as the relationship between these two tennis legends goes, there is little evidence to support Margaret Court’s claims of “not being admired” by Serena Williams. In fact, both players had met on stage at the 2016 Hopman Cup player party in Perth, Australia, and publicly praised each other for their achievements. Since then, Serena Williams has not publicly stated any disapproval towards Margaret Court, though her lack of mention or honor towards the all-time tennis great does bring with it a sense of avoidance, whether intentional or not.
Margaret Court vs. Serena Williams: Who is the GOAT?
The fact of the matter remains that Margaret Court has won far more major and minor career titles than Serena Williams, and in that regard, we can safely say the Australian’s records are superior. This is especially true when we take into consideration the much shorter career of Court compared to Williams, as well as her greater frequency of retirements from the sport. While Serena Williams is undoubtedly the greatest women’s tennis player of the modern era, career statistics and records indicate that Margaret Court is currently the undisputed greatest of all time.