Margaret Court could not help but criticize Serena Williams’ tennis farewell at last year’s US Open by reigniting a war of words between the sport’s two most successful women’s singles players. Court still tops the all-time list with 24 Grand Slams, one more than Williams managed.
The five-time US Open winner criticized the modern-day great for showing a perceived lack of respect toward Ajla Tomljanovic following her third-round defeat to the Australian player. “I thought it was bad that Williams didn’t mention her opponent more when she spoke,” Tomljanovic’s compatriot Court told the Telegraph.
“We were taught to be role models for the young, in how we behaved. We were taught to honor our opponent. You learned from your losses. We respected one another.”
While Williams did mention Tomljanovic by name, saying: “I tried, but Ajla just played a little bit better,” she kept it brief.
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Court’s comments came a month after Williams was rather dismissive of the record the Australian holds. “There are people who say I’m not the GOAT [greatest of all time] because I didn’t pass Margaret Court’s record of 24 grand slam titles, which she achieved before the ‘open era’ that began in 1968,” the American wrote in Vogue.
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want that record. Obviously, I do. But day to day, I’m really not thinking about her. If I’m in a slam final, then yes, I’m thinking about that record. Maybe I thought about it too much, and that didn’t help.”
“The way I see it, I should have had 30-plus grand slams. I had my chances after coming back from giving birth.
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“I went from a C-section to a second pulmonary embolism to a Grand Slam final. I played while breastfeeding. I played through postpartum depression.
“But I didn’t get there. Shoulda, woulda, coulda. I didn’t show up the way I should have or could have. But I showed up 23 times, and that’s fine. Actually it’s extraordinary.”
In her own interview, Court pointed out: “Serena has played seven years more than I did. I finished in my early 30s.”
“People forget that I took two years out,” she continued. “I first retired, like Ash Barty, when I was 25, thinking I would never return to tennis. I got married, had a baby, but then had one of my best years, winning 24 out of 25 tournaments.
“I came back after two babies! After having the first baby, I won three out of the four slams. And Serena hasn’t won a slam since. I would love to have played in this era – I think it’s so much easier.”
Despite doing nothing but diminish Williams’ achievements to talk up her own credentials during a rare interview, Court admitted she’s “admired her as a player,” before adding: “But I don’t think she has ever admired me.”
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