Australia’s Margaret Court believes 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 doesn’t reciprocate her admiration.
Williams — who holds 23 Slam titles, one shy of the record Court set from 1960 to 1973 — was feted in many quarters as the greatest tennis player of all time in the wake of what is expected to be her final appearance at Flushing Meadows after recently telling the world she is ready to start “evolving” away from her playing days. Williams, who will turn 41 this month, was eliminated from the US Open in the third round by Ajla Tomljanovic on Friday night, a match in which she staved off five match points to prolong the three-hour-plus proceedings.
“Serena, I’ve admired her as a player,” Court, 80, told Britain’s Daily Telegraph in a rare interview. “But I don’t think she has ever admired me.”
Court said she has become a persona non grata in the tennis world because of her Christian beliefs, which led her to oppose same-sex marriage when it was proposed in Australia.
“A lot of the press and television today, particularly in tennis, don’t want to mention my name,” she said. “The honor 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.”
Court also defended her achievements against suggestions they were not comparable to those of Williams because she played mostly in the amateur era.
“Serena has played seven years more than I did,” Court said. “I finished in my early 30s. People forget that I took two years out. I first retired … 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 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 the first baby, I won three out of the four Slams.” She added that “Serena hasn’t won a Slam since” having a baby.
Williams’ most recent 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 her 11 Australian Open singles titles had less value than Williams’ seven.
“I often hear Billie Jean [King] saying that people didn’t come down to Australia in my early years,” Court 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.”
Court said she thought the life of a top tennis player was actually harder in her day.
“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 honor the past of the game.”
Court said she was disappointed that Williams made little mention of her Australian opponent, Tomljanovic, following her presumed last contest at the US Open.
“I thought it was bad that Williams didn’t mention her opponent more when she spoke,” Court said. “We were taught to honor our opponent. We respected one another.”
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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