US Open Icon: Margaret Court
Published August 21, 2011 03:36
By the end of her storied career, Australia's Margaret Court had won 62 titles at the Big Four championships - 24 in singles, 19 in doubles and 19 mixed. The towering achievement was her calendar year sweep of all four singles majors in 1970, which had only been done once before, by Maureen Connolly in 1953, and has only been done once since, by Steffi Graf in 1988.
Court sealed the Grand Slam with a 62 26 61 defeat of Rosie Casals at the US Open; she has described the victory as the greatest moment of her tennis life. The feat was burnished by the fact she also won the doubles and mixed events at Forest Hills to secure the 'triple crown'. This is an accomplishment shared only with Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova - but Court is the only woman who has done it twice (also at the 1963 Australian Open).
Court was the supreme exponent of the serve-and-volley style at a time when three of the four Slams, including the US National Championships, were played on grass. While the first of her non-Australian majors was won on clay at Roland Garros in 1962, and she went on to triumph in Paris five times, she was certainly most at home on the green stuff.
After that maiden win in the French capital Margaret Smith, as she was then, was top seed at Wimbledon but upset by Billie Jean in the first round. Nonetheless the powerful Aussie recovered to capture the first of five US crowns that summer, edging American Darlene Hard in the final, 97 64.
It was the first of four years that Court would pocket three of the four majors, always including the US title. In the Forest Hills final of 1965, Court beat King, 86 75. In 1969 - having become Mrs Barry Court and returned from an 18 month hiatus - she won the title without dropping a set, besting Nancy Richey in the final, 62 62. And her victim in 1973 was fellow Australian Evonne Goolagong, 76(5-2) 57 62.
New York was special for other reasons, too. After her first child, Daniel, was born in March 1972, Court returned to the tour in time for the US Open; King stopped her march in the semis. Court's win over Goolagong the following year made her the first mother to win the US Open, an achievement that would eventually be emulated by Kim Clijsters in 2009.
Having given birth to a daughter, Marika, Court missed the 1974 US Open but she was back in 1975. Her 62 64 quarterfinal loss to Martina Navratilova turned out to be the last Grand Slam singles match of her career, but she partnered with Virginia Wade to beat King and Casals for the doubles title - her final triumph at a major.
Margaret's US Open highlights:
Champion (5): 1962 (d. Hard), 1965 (d. King), 1969 (d. Richey), 1970 (d. Casals), 1973 (d. Goolagong)
Runner-Up (1): 1963 (l. Bueno)
Years contested: (11): 1961-65, 1968-70, 1972-73, 1975
Singles Win-Loss Record: 51-6