Heralded as the greatest female tennis players ever, Margaret Court is a home-grown champion who was the first women to ever win a Grand Slam (that is all four major titles in the one calendar year), as both a younger player and later as a mother.
Margaret has also claimed the Grand Slam Boxed Set twice. Achieving victory in all three domains; singles, mixed and doubles, at all 4 majors. Never achieved before in her time, she has paved the way for other females and mothers in elite sport.
Coming to find faith in 1973, Margaret’s passion and drive for life shifted. She went on to become an ordained minister and now leads Victory Life Centre based in Perth, Western Australia and multiple aid charity groups associated with this ministry.
Born in Albury, New South Wales in 1942, she was the youngest of 4 siblings, 2 older brothers and a sister, to parents Lawrence and Catherine Smith. They lived opposite a large grass tennis court complex and Margaret started playing at the age of 8. A natural left-handed she was persuaded to switch to right-hand and coached under local tennis coach Wally Rutter.
Rutter saw her potential and encouraged Court to be coached under Australian scout Frank Sedgman. Sedgman was the first to call out Court’s talent when he saw her at the age of 13, claiming she would be the first Australian woman to win Wimbledon. Travelling between Albury and Melbourne, with an eventual move to Melbourne at the age of 16, enabled Court’s Tennis career to improve.
Dubbed as the “Aussie Amazon” Court’s athletic ability and fitness stunned her opponents and in what was a first for her era, she undertook a rigorous training regime under Stan Nicholls. Stan gave her a variety of training that regularly included weights, interval running and sand dunes.
What is now common practice for elite athletes of all sports now, this was revolutionary for female athletes, especially before the “Open Era” of tennis. Margaret attributes lots of this strength training to her lack of injuries across her 17 year career. Her diligence and love of training left an impression on Nicholls, who is said to have told other athletes later “if only you’d seen how much Court was lifting”
Her height (175cm) and athleticism proved her formidable around the court especially at the net, serving up a mean volley game, with her reach spreading far across the court, Billie Jean King used to call her “the arm” due to her reach around the court.
Boxed set, Tennis championships
Court burst onto the Australian Tennis scene in 1959 in her first Australian Open, she lost in the second Round to tournament winner Mary Reitano. She returned the next year, and at just 17 years of age won her first title. Court went on to win 11/14 Australian Open titles she played in across her career.
Around the world Court dominated all surfaces she played on winning all 4 major titles (Australian, French, US & Wimbledon) which are played on 3 different court surfaces (Hard, clay, hard and grass).
As a singles tennis player Court holds 21 Grand Slam titles, winning all four majors in one calendar year in 1970. Taking time off to have children, in 1972, & 1974, Margaret Court & Kim Clijsters are the only two mothers to have won 3 titles after having children.
Not only claiming victories in singles titles, Court also holds the record for a “career boxed set” by claiming victory in all three domains of tennis (singles, doubles and mixed doubles) at all 4 majors.
Court is only one of three women, alongside Martina Navratilova and Doris Hart, to hold this accolade. Court is the only person to have achieved this twice across her career.
Courts on- court statistics are impressive and holds the record for Her career singles win-loss which was 1,177–106, for a winning percentage of 91.74 percent on all surfaces (hard, clay, grass, carpet). She was named world number one 7 years across her 17year career.
She took some time off for her first two children and came back to play, returning to number no.1 ranking after her first child, always with her internal drive and will to achieve. After making a comeback from her second child, and learning that she was pregnant with her third, Court retired from tennis, and was inducted into the International Hall of Fame two years later in 1979.
Court has received the following accolades; inducted into the Australian Sports hall of fame (1985), then elevated to ‘Legend’ status (1998), Australian Tennis Hall of a fame (1993), awarded the ABC’s Sportsperson of the year (1963, 1970), awarded Internstional Tennis Federations Phillips Chatrier Award (2006), Order of Australia (2007) and in 2014 Show court one in Melbourne was renamed Margaret Court Arena.
During the early 70’s, Court was invited along to a church service by a friend in France, and this started her to question spirituality in her life and her Catholic upbringing. She returned home and had some questions answered by a close friend who had been become a ‘born again’ Christian. Court was still on tour during this and after her retirement found a new calling into Christian Ministry.
Court attended Bible college and was ordained a minister in 1991. The Victory Life Centre in Perth was established in 1995, which Margaret still leads today. Victory Life Centre Ministries help local, statewide, National and international communities, with Victory Life Centre helping distribute 25tonnes of food for relief in WA in one year.
In recent years Margaret’s views on same-sex marriage have caused some controversy in the public, including calls to rename Margaret Court Arena in Melbourne.
Having met Margaret, it is clear to see the passion and drive she has in following Jesus. I can only imagine the intent she played tennis with. It seems this same passion and drive that carried to her world no. 1 multiple times, is now the same passion and drive she leads Victory Life centre. She is a formidable tennis player who holds do many unbeaten records, and is a passionate follower of Jesus, living out her faith and calling in WA.
Kelly Thompson is the newest member of the Sports journalist team. Kelly currently plays AFL for Casey Demons in the VFLW, and practices what she preaches as a HOPE (Health, Outdoor, and Physical Education) Teacher in Melbourne’s southeast.