40 LOVE Icons: Margaret Court
Published December 11, 2013 12:02
LONDON, England - In a few weeks everyone will be talking about Serena Williams going for her 18th Grand Slam title, which would tie her with Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova for second place on the Open Era list of Grand Slams - first place in the Open Era belongs to Steffi Graf, who has 22 of them.
But even beyond that is another record - a record that, given Williams keeps up her recent domination of the women's tour, will be within reach in the second half of 2015. It's the all-time record for Grand Slam titles, across the Open Era and pre-Open Era, and it belongs to Margaret Court - a whopping 24.
Court's 24 Grand Slam titles included every one of the four majors - 11 Australian Opens, five French Opens, three Wimbledons and five US Opens. But more amazing is that she took several breaks in her career to have her first three children, only playing 47 Grand Slams - she won more than half of them.
She also completed the Calendar Year Grand Slam in 1970, one of only three women in the history of the sport to do that, alongside Maureen Connolly in 1953 and the aforementioned Graf in 1988.
The Australian's 17-year professional career wrapped up at Detroit in 1977, retiring as she became pregnant with her fourth child. Though her years as the best player in the world all came in before the computer WTA Rankings were introduced in 1975, many people consider her a former No.1 anyway.
And she was included in the WTA's 40 LOVE Party on the Middle Sunday of Wimbledon earlier this year, joining a slew of other former World No.1s for a panel discussion at the once-in-a-lifetime event.
"It was great to be a part of it," Court said at the event. "There were probably only three other players there that I played against in my career - Chris, Martina and Billie Jean - the rest of them were after my career. But I think it's great for the game and it was definitely a great experience to be a part of it."
The woman most likely to break Court's record in this lifetime - Williams - was also at the event. Since coming back from a year-long injury and illness lay-off at Wimbledon in 2011, the American has gone from strength to strength. But exactly how much does Court keep in touch with women's tennis now?
"This Wimbledon is the first time I've been back for nine years, but I keep up with tennis, and I do watch the Slams," she said. "It's always great to see women coming through, and the athletic and artistic sides coming through. I'd like to see a few more volleyers and a bit more artistry in it, though.
"I also still play a little bit. I enjoy the exercise of it. I've just always loved the game."