Australia’s Margaret Court thinks she doesn’t get as much recognition as she deserves for her 24 Grand Slam singles titles from anyone in the tennis world these days, not least Serena Williams.
Williams was honored in many circles as the greatest tennis player ever when she retired after losing in the third round at the US Open on Saturday, one title shy of the record he held from 1960 to 1973.
“Serena, I liked her as a player,” Kurt, 80, told Britain’s Daily Telegraph in a rare interview.
“But I don’t think she liked me at all.”
Kurt said she became persona non grata in the tennis world due to her Christian beliefs, which led her to oppose same-sex marriage when it was proposed in Australia.
The 80-year-old defended her accomplishments against suggestions that she was not comparable to those of Williams because she played mostly in the amateur era.
“Serena has played seven years more than she has,” Kurt added. “I finished in my early thirties. People forget I had two years. I retired for the first time… When I was 25, I was thinking I would never go back to tennis.
“I got married and had a baby, but then I had one of the best years of my life, winning 24 out of 25 championships.”
The court reminded her critics that she also has a better record than Williams after becoming mothers during their careers.
“I came back after two kids,” she said. “After she had her first child, I won three out of four. Serena hasn’t won slam titles since she had a baby.
The court also criticized suggestions that her 11 singles titles at the Australian Open were less valuable than Williams’ seven.
“I often hear Billie Jean (King) say that people didn’t come to Australia in my early years,” she said.
“But Maria Bueno, the world number one, went down. So did Kristen Truman, Anne Haydon, and Darlene Hard. Plus, Australia had some great players. We had five girls in the top 10. Leslie Bowie won twice at the French Open. .”
Kurt said she thought the life of a top tennis player was actually the toughest in her day.
“I wish I could play in this era,” she said. “I think it’s much easier.”
“I would love to take my family or friends with me. But I couldn’t. I had to go alone or with the national team. People don’t see all of that.
“We didn’t have psychologists or coaches with us. It’s a completely different world. That’s what disappoints me – players today have no respect for the game’s past.”
The court said it was disappointed that Williams was not mentioned much by the Australian, and postponed Tomljanovic after the final of her career.
“I thought it was bad that Williams didn’t mention her opponent more when she spoke,” she says. “We learned to honor our opponent. We respected each other.”
The court said she did not lose sleep due to disdain from the tennis world but found it sad.
“A lot of the press and TV today, especially in tennis, don’t want my name to be mentioned,” she said.
“I did not get the honor of what I did. In my nation, I got titles, but they still preferred not to mention me.”