Margaret Court believes that she doesn’t get the admiration she deserves from the tennis world and from Serena Williams in particular.
The Australian record-holder for Grand Slam titles, with 24 to Williams’ 23, defended her accomplishments compared to Williams’ after the latter played what was presumably her final match, a third-round loss to Ajla Tomljanovic at the U.S. Open on Friday night.
“Serena, I’ve admired her as a player,” Court told Britain’s Daily Telegraph. “But I don’t think she has ever admired me.”
Court, 80, said that Williams played seven years longer than she did and had more success following pregnancy than Williams.
“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 [having a baby].”
Court, who came under fire for her opposition to same-sex marriage in her native Australia, said her Christianity has led her to become an outcast within tennis.
“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’s record is largely viewed as less impressive than Williams, despite having won more Grand Slams, because she played mostly in the amateur era. She also won 11 of her Grand Slams in Australia, a competition that top players often skipped at the time — a perception she disagrees with.
“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.”
Williams last won a Grand Slam in Melbourne, at the 2017 Australian Open while she was eight weeks pregnant. She has since largely slowed down her playing schedule, this year playing only the U.S. Open, Wimbledon and a few tuneups for each.
Though she has stayed away from saying “retirement,” Williams wrote in Vogue that she is “evolving away” from tennis.
Court said life as a tennis player in her day was harder than that which Williams experienced.
“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 didn’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 had one more shot to take at Williams, noting that she barely mentioned Tomljanovic following her loss.
“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.”