'I've admired Serena but I don't think she has ever admired me,' says record-holder Court

The 80-year-old Australian feels under-appreciated in the sport despite her dominance in the 1960s and early ’70s.

Margaret Court and (right) Serena Williams.
Margaret Court and (right) Serena Williams.
Image: PA Images

AUSTRALIAN TENNIS GREAT Margaret Court says her admiration for Serena Williams is not reciprocated after the American retired just one major short of equalling her all-time record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles.

Williams was widely hailed as the greatest player ever after she bowed out of the sport following defeat to Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic in the third round of the US Open on Friday.

But the 40-year-old ends her career with 23 majors, one behind Court, who holds the overall record for men and women.

“Serena, I’ve admired her as a player,” Court told the Daily Telegraph in a rare interview. “But I don’t think she has ever admired me.”

The 80-year-old, who works as a church pastor in Perth, has become a divisive figure in tennis over her remarks on race and homosexuality, including opposition to gay marriage.

Court feels she is under-appreciated in the sport despite her stellar record throughout the 1960s and early 1970s.

It’s very sad, because a lot of the press and television today, particularly in tennis, don’t want to mention my name,” she said.

“It’s only when they have to, because I still hold so many records. In 2020, I was meant to be coming to Wimbledon for the 50th anniversary of my calendar Grand Slam.

“But then Covid hit, so the honour never happened…. 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.”

She added: “I was at Wimbledon this year and nobody even spoke to me. So I thought, ‘Ah, that’s interesting.’”

tennis-wimbledon-championships-ladies-singles-final-margaret-court-v-billie-jean-king Court celebrates with the Wimbledon ladies' singles trophy in 1970. Source: S&G

Overall, Court won 64 Grand Slam titles, including singles, doubles and mixed doubles competitions, compared with Williams’s overall number 39.

“The 64 — I don’t think anyone will ever touch,” said the Australian, who won her last major singles title in 1973.

“Serena has played seven years more than I did,” said Court. “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.”

Court said her record after becoming a mother was superior to that of the American’s.

I came back after two babies,” she said. “After having the first baby, I won three out of the four Slams. And Serena hasn’t won a Slam since (she had a child).”

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Court also said playing in her era was tougher.

“As amateurs, we had to play every week, because we didn’t have any money,” she said. “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. 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.”

– © AFP 2022

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