For those young players and visitors to the 2009 Australian Open who stop to watch a match on the Number One Show Court, or happen to buy a postage stamp to fix to their letters home, they will see an image on the stamp, and a name over the court which are common to both. The name is of Margaret Court. Some may not be familiar with her, and some may be confused by another similar name of Margaret Court-Smith. They are one and the same person. Margaret Smith married Barry Court and continued her playing career as a married lady using her double-barrelled name.
Margaret, or “The Arm” as she was nicknamed by Billy Jean King, was the greatest woman tennis player of all time. Many of her records still remain intact and it is doubtful that they will ever be equalled or broken. In a span of 15 years she won 62 Major Championship titles. The closest any player has come to that number is Martina Navratilova with 56, and after those two the next is Roy Emerson with just 28. In Singles titles alone Margaret won 24 titles to Steffi Graf’s 21. She won the Australian Open 7 years in a row and for a total of 11 times. She won 3 times at Wimbledon, 5 times at the French Open, and 7 times at the US Open.
She is the only player in history to have won Grand Slams in singles and doubles, and the only player to have won 12 Grand Slam event titles twice. She was ranked as the world’s number one player 7 times. She battled with Billy Jean King on many occasions, and in 1970 beat her at Wimbledon 14-12, 11-9, in a match which remains as the longest ever played in a Women’s final. She led Australia to victories in the Fed Cup in 1964, ’65, ’68, and ’71 where she went undefeated in 22 straight singles matches. In 1979 she was inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame.
Throughout her incredible career as an amateur and later as a professional, Margaret brought a quality to the Women’s game that was unique and different to that which had gone before her. She played like a man with a power and strength never seen before. He service and baseline shots were hit with such power that many players failed to connect their rackets to the ball, let alone hit a return. Yet Margaret off the court was rather shy, soft spoken and unassuming. She shunned the spotlight, was nervous when interviewed and often slipped away to avoid the press. She has four children, two were born during her playing years, she actually won Wimbledon while she was pregnant with child number two, and has retired to Perth in Western Australia where she is an ordained Minister and runs the Victory Life Center.
Margaret Court’s name has become a part of Tennis History, and if she puts in an appearance at the 2009 Australian Open, I’m sure she will receive an ovation from her home country crowd that will make the ground tremble just as her opponents used to do when faced with the prospect of having to play her.