I admire Serena Williams – but she never admired me

These efforts to erase Court’s achievements are all in direct response to her faith as a devout Pentecostal Christian. In 2012, she publicly opposed same-sex marriage in Australia, and in 2017 stated that she would boycott national airline Qantas for its support of the cause. The backlash was sustained and wild, with Martina Navratilova declaring, “Your myopic gaze is really scary.”

But Court doesn’t back down an inch when it comes to asserting her core beliefs or her right to express them. When asked if it saddens her that Williams does not show even a modicum of respect for her career, she says: “I think a lot of it is because I’m a Minister and I stand up for my beliefs. I have experienced a lot of bullying. But we should be able to say what we believe. I have nothing against anyone. I respect everyone, I serve everyone. I still love the game. I teach a lot of young people today and I use illustrations from tennis about the discipline, the commitment, the focus. Sport brings so much into your life.”

Does it become more difficult to uphold their faith in the face of such resentment and hostility? The court gives a clear answer. “I became a Christian when I was number 1 in the world,” she explains. “You’ll never change that for me. That’s what I believe and what the Bible says. People miss the reality that can be so wonderful in your life. I am now 80 and blessed with a wonderful family and a wonderful church. We bring 100 tons of food to the community every week. I love it. I loved my tennis days, I think it was a gift from God and I love what I’m doing today.”

Even altruistic work can be complicated, however, given the extent to which Court has been ostracized both in Australia and abroad. She was recently denied a state lottery grant because of her “biblical views.” “You still get bullied by LGBT groups,” she says. “Even though I help the poor, some companies are not allowed to give things to my church because of my name.”

There are also vehement calls for Margaret Court Arena in Melbourne Park to be renamed, with LGBT lobbyists calling for a change in response to their “continuous attacks” on their community. “Well, they got everything they wanted in marriage and everything else,” Court shoots back. “So I’m like, ‘Why, if you should be so lucky to have this, do you still take it out on people if they don’t have the same beliefs?’ That’s what I don’t understand.”

“The Australian Amazon”

In the minds of younger tennis fans who grew up with William’s ruthless dominance, Court belongs to the realm of sepia. But half a century later, her work is still stunning. During her amateur and professional career, she won 1,180 matches out of 1,287 and earned the nickname “the Aussie Amazon” for her outstanding fitness, which owed much to her running practice on sand hills. At the majors, her record when singles, doubles and mixed titles are added together surpasses Williams’, 64-39. “The 64,” she predicts with good reason, “I don’t think anyone will ever touch her.”

She also amassed this amazing sum much faster than anyone before or since. “Serena played seven more years than I did,” Court points out. “I was done in my early 30s. People forget that I took a two-year hiatus. I retired like Ash Barty at 25 because I thought I would never return to tennis. I got married, had a baby, but then I had one of my best years where I won 24 out of 25 tournaments.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.