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Tennis great Margaret Court says sport has shunned her

Sep 13, 2020; Flushing Meadows, New York, USA; General view of Arthur Ashe Stadium during the Dominic Thiem of Austria match against Alexander Zverev of Germany in the men's singles final match on day 14 of the 2020 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Margaret Court owns 24 Grand Slam tennis championships, more than any woman — or man — to play the game.

While she didn’t say the word “retired,” Serena Williams’ career presumably ended Friday with a loss in the third round at the U.S. Open, with 23 Grand Slam titles to her name. Rafael Nadal is pursuing his 23rd this week in New York.

But Court, 80, in an interview with the Daily Telegraph, said she doesn’t get the respect she deserves from the tennis community at large or from Williams. The Australian said Rod Laver, her contemporary and countrymate who won 11 Grand Slam events, is celebrated while she isn’t.

For that, she concedes it’s because of her conservative beliefs about social issues, such as her opposition to same-sex marriage.

She said she attended Wimbledon this year, and no one spoke to her. She said her name only comes up in the context of Williams’ chase of her record 24 titles.

“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 honor never happened,” Court said.

Court won her first Grand Slam in 1960 at the Australian and won all four events — the Australian, French and U.S. opens, along with Wimbledon — in 1970 and 1973.

“The French Open didn’t invite me, the U.S. Open didn’t invite me. Rod Laver had won the Slam and I was going to be honored in the same way, but no. I didn’t lose any sleep over it. But 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.”

And she said Williams’ career doesn’t stack up to hers. Court won her 24 titles over 14 seasons. Williams won her first Grand Slam – the U.S. Open – in 1999 and her last one in 2017.

Plus, Court said, the years she played were more difficult on competitors.

“I would love to have played in this era,” she said. “I think it’s so much easier. 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, in the interview, called out Williams.

“Serena, I’ve admired her as a player,” Court said. “But I don’t think she has ever admired me.”

Williams said she is leaving tennis, in part, to expand her family. Her daughter, Olympia, turned 5 last week and was born after Williams won her final Grand Slam.

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

–Field Level Media