Margaret Court Continues to Stay Ahead of the Pack at 24

CHIP72

Rookie
RE: Margaret Smith Court's career record

In evaluating Court's Grand Slam career against other all-time greats (I consider Evert, Navratilova, Graf, and Serena the other members of that group, at least among the women who played in the Open Era), I think there are various factors, both for and against her, that need to be considered:

PROS:
*She won 24 Grand Slam titles
*She won a career boxed set twice, the only person to do so more than once (and one of only three people, all women, to do so at all, Martina Navratilova being one of the other two), and did so both before and after the beginning of the Open Era
*Won a calendar year Grand Slam in singles in 1970, one of only three women to ever do so (Steffi Graf being one of the other two)
*Most women prior to the Open Era did not turn professional, so her pre-Open Era record is not diminished and her total career accomplishments can be fairly evaluated against women who played entirely in the Open Era
*She had a 24-5 record in Grand Slam singles finals
*She had a dominant record against the her biggest and best rival, fellow great and 12 time Grand Slam singles winner Billie Jean Moffit/King (22-10); King was a little less than 1 1/2 years younger than Court, so they were true contemporaries
*Won her 24 Grand Slam titles despite retiring and then returning to tennis multiple times in her career (after she got married, after she had the first three of her four children) and could have won even more Slams and other tournaments without those retirements
*Won a calendar year Grand Slam after her first retirement, and three out of four Slams in 1973 at ages 30-31 after her second retirement and the birth of her first child
*She played in the 1960s and early 1970s, when the depth of quality in the women's game was likely better than it was before her playing career (relative to eras earlier all-time greats like Suzanne Lenglen, Helen Wills Moody, and Maureen Connolly played in)
*May hold the record for most women's singles tournaments won (192), and won 91.7% of her singles matches, an all-time record for women who played in the Open Era (her record includes both pre-Open Era and post-Open Era accomplishments)

CONS:
*She won nearly half her Grand Slam singles titles at the Australian Open, which generally had weaker fields than the other three Slams in her playing career
*She played in the 1960s and early 1970s, when the depth of quality in the women's game was weaker than it became in later years (relative to eras later all-time greats like Evert, Navratilova, Graf, and Serena Williams played in; in general I believe the quality of depth in women's tennis, and most sports in general, has improved over time)
*She had losing career records against Evert (4-9) and Navratilova (2-5), though to be fair she played those later greats when she was past her prime and they were in or closer to their prime years

To me, Margaret Court clearly belongs in the conversation when discussing the all-time great women's tennis players, along with the other four women I mentioned above and possibly also Suzanne Lenglen and Helen Wills Moody (whose career records were even better than Court's; they almost never lost in their careers). Based purely on overall results, she had a greater career than any of the great players who came after her. Unlike Evert or Graf, she was a top doubles player along with being a top singles player. However, I don't think there's any doubt that the level of overall competition Court played in her career, while greater than the competition faced by Lenglen and Moody, was not as good as the competition faced by Evert and Navratilova, was not nearly as good as the competition faced by Graf, and was significantly less than the competition faced by Serena Williams. In many of Court's matches against most of her opponents, it is likely she could play considerably less than her best and still win, because most of the women she played were not nearly as good as her. That is less true with the women who have played more recently.

I prefer to group the five women (Court, Evert, Navratilova, Graf, and Serena) together and not say any one of them was clearly better than the rest; they were all all-time greats of the game and should be respected as such. All of them have valid cases for and against them as the greatest player of all-time. However, if I were to objectively rank those women on how great they were, based on their career accomplishments, I'd probably rank them this way:

1) Serena Williams (I think the fact she played against a deeper pool of players and was also an excellent doubles player ranks her ahead of the women who came before her, even if they won more singles or doubles titles or total matches)
2) Margaret Court
3) Martina Navratilova (might be willing to flip her with Court; Navratilova was probably an even greater doubles player than Court, when looking at their records and adjusting for era)
4) Steffi Graf
5) Chris Evert (who despite ranking 5th I believe is the greatest women's clay court player of all-time)
 
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I like that ranking. I would not rank Graf as low as 4th if it were based on just singles as most rank, but giving some recognition to doubles a ranking of 4th would be justifiable.
 

Karma Tennis

Hall of Fame
I like that list as well.

I think Serena would have handled the small hooped wooden racquets of Margaret's time just as well. But gees, it is really really hard to separate those 5 players.

CLAY: Chrissi then Steffi.
GRASS: Toss up between Margaret and Martina
HARD: Serena
 
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Greatgatsby

Semi-Pro
I like that list as well.

I think Serena would have handled the small hooped wooden racquets of Margaret's time just as well. But gees, it is really really hard to separate those 5 players.

CLAY: Chrissi then Steffi.
GRASS: Toss up between Margaret and Martina
HARD: Serena
The irony between Martina and Margaret is that in 1975 Martina upended Margaret at her best slam down under and then a few months later Margaret got revenge beating Martina at Wimbledon, later Martina's best slam.
 

Karma Tennis

Hall of Fame
Yeah ... that is a great Fun Fact!

Also, no discussion about elite Women's Tennis is complete without mentioning the great Maureen Connolly.

First women to win the Grand Slam. She won all four Major Titles in 1953 only dropping a SINGLE Set along the way. Amazing!

Even more amazing ... Maureen won the last nine Grand Slam singles tournaments she played before her untimely passing, including 50 consecutive singles matches.
 
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PDJ

G.O.A.T.
I like that list as well.

I think Serena would have handled the small hooped wooden racquets of Margaret's time just as well. But gees, it is really really hard to separate those 5 players.

CLAY: Chrissi then Steffi.
GRASS: Toss up between Margaret and Martina
HARD: Serena
I agree they are the Top 5 women of recent times. However, whilst I think Williams would handle the old wooden racquets I'm not convinced that she would have had the same results:
1) I don't think her body would have held out for so long.
2) l think her movement would have been more exposed.
Just my opinion.
 

CHIP72

Rookie
I agree they are the Top 5 women of recent times. However, whilst I think Williams would handle the old wooden racquets I'm not convinced that she would have had the same results:
1) I don't think her body would have held out for so long.
2) l think her movement would have been more exposed.
Just my opinion.
What you are saying may or may not be true, but when people evaluate great players from different eras against one another in any sport, that's not how the evaluations work. The evaluations are based on how great each player was relative to his/her era. You can't really do an evaluation differently because we have no idea what players would have accomplished had conditions been different; they only played in the conditions they were given to deal with. Men's tennis player evaluations would be even more impacted than women's tennis player evaluations if we don't adjust for context. It is hard to imagine someone like Ken Rosewall or Rod Laver being highly successful in today's tennis game, but today's conditions aren't what they dealt with; they dealt with conditions from the early 1950s (Rosewall) or mid-1950s (Laver) to the early 1970s.

FWIW, I say the above (and give my thoughts and rankings above) as someone who doesn't even really like Serena Williams. I do respect her accomplishments however, and the biggest compliment I will give her accomplishments-wise is to say she is clearly the greatest old player (30 years old or older), male or female, in the Open Era, and the greatest old women's player of all-time.
 
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PDJ

G.O.A.T.
What you are saying may or may not be true, but when people evaluate great players from different eras against one another in any sport, that's not how the evaluations work. The evaluations are based on how great each player was relative to his/her era. You can't really do an evaluation differently because we have no idea what players would have accomplished had conditions been different; they only played in the conditions they were given to deal with. Men's tennis player evaluations would be even more impacted than women's tennis player evaluations if we don't adjust for context. It is hard to imagine someone like Ken Rosewall or Rod Laver being highly successful in today's tennis game, but today's conditions aren't what they dealt with; they dealt with conditions from the early 1950s (Rosewall) or mid-1950s (Laver) to the early 1970s.

FWIW, I say the above (and give my thoughts and rankings above) as someone who doesn't even really like Serena Williams. I do respect her accomplishments however, and the biggest compliment I will give her accomplishments-wise is to say she is clearly the greatest old player (30 years old or older), men or women, in the Open Era, and the greatest old women's player of all-time.
I was simply replying to the point that Williams would do well with a wooden racquet. Purely subjective, but remains my opinion.
 

CHIP72

Rookie
Yeah ... that is a great Fun Fact!

Also, no discussion about elite Women's Tennis is complete without mentioning the great Maureen Connolly.

First women to win the Grand Slam. She won all four Major Titles in 1953 only dropping a SINGLE Set along the way. Amazing!

Even more amazing ... Maureen won the last nine Grand Slam singles tournaments she played before her untimely passing, including 50 consecutive singles matches.
Yeah, though I did mention Connolly in my lengthy comment above, the only reason I don't place her at quite the level of Lenglen and Wills despite the fact she played after them (and probably played better competition) is because her peak was short compared to those players as well as later all-time greats (albeit for reasons beyond her control). One can only imagine what Connolly would have accomplished had she not suffered an off-court injury that ended her career. She was young enough that she probably would have had the opportunity to play Margaret Court and Billie Jean King had she not gotten injured, and had Connolly turned pro as she intended to do so before she got injured and been an attraction, it is possible that may have encouraged Court and/or King to turn pro before the Open Era started (had Connolly lasted long enough to play them regularly before she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer), which could have altered, positively or negatively, the way we view Court and King.

I didn't realize this until I typed my comments about Maureen Connolly above, but she (born 9/1934) was considerably closer in age to not only Court (born 7/1942) and King (born 11/1943), but also Chris Evert (born 12/1954) and Martina Navratilova (born 10/1956), than she was to Helen Wills Moody (born 10/1905) or Suzanne Lenglen (born 5/1899). The boundary between before and after the Open Era sets an arbitrary boundary where we often think of players who played entirely before the Open Era as ancient history, but Connolly played tennis at a time when the game was probably closer in style to the eras when Court, King, Evert, and Navratilova played than the eras when Lenglen and Moody played.
 
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CHIP72

Rookie
I was simply replying to the point that Williams would do well with a wooden racquet. Purely subjective, but remains my opinion.
I think a lot of players today, both male and female, would probably have some challenges playing with a wooden racket.

Your point is fair, I'm just saying we need to be careful when making cross-era comparisons between players.
 

PDJ

G.O.A.T.
I think a lot of players today, both male and female, would probably have some challenges playing with a wooden racket.

Your point is fair, I'm just saying we need to be careful when making cross-era comparisons between players.
I agree with you.
I have never subscribed to a 'GOAT' theory.
I find it redundant, and mostly tiresome, as their are far too many variables, different priorities, in any given era.
All 5 women were great players in the past. Exceptional.
Only Williams is still in the position to enhance, or detract, from her legacy.
 

CHIP72

Rookie
I like that ranking. I would not rank Graf as low as 4th if it were based on just singles as most rank, but giving some recognition to doubles a ranking of 4th would be justifiable.
Right, I did give some weight to doubles. Had I only looked at singles play, IMO Graf passes Navratilova and possibly Court to place #2.
 

BTURNER

Hall of Fame
I like that list as well.

I think Serena would have handled the small hooped wooden racquets of Margaret's time just as well. But gees, it is really really hard to separate those 5 players.

CLAY: Chrissi then Steffi.
GRASS: Toss up between Margaret and Martina
HARD: Serena
I think had Serena been raised in a wood racket era, she would have been a serve/volleyer. I think her temperament would fit that style of agression over the wood racket styles of Austin or Evert, or Nancy Richey or Wills from the back court. She is not well suited for long patient rallies and waiting for 'openings'. Temperament is one thing I don't think changes depending on an era. If you are bold , then you are bold.
 

CHIP72

Rookie
I think had Serena been raised in a wood racket era, she would have been a serve/volleyer. I think her temperament would fit that style of agression over the wood racket styles of Austin or Evert, or Nancy Richey or Wills from the back court. She is not well suited for long patient rallies and waiting for 'openings'. Temperament is one thing I don't think changes depending on an era. If you are bold , then you are bold.
I definitely think Serena Williams, with her power-based game and desire to play relatively short points, would have been a serve and volley player had she come of age in the 1970s or 1980s (or earlier) tennis-wise. It would have been very interesting seeing her play against a likely similar player in Navratilova.
 

BTURNER

Hall of Fame
I definitely think Serena Williams, with her power-based game and desire to play relatively short points, would have been a serve and volley player had she come of age in the 1970s or 1980s (or earlier) tennis-wise. It would have been very interesting seeing her play against a likely similar player in Navratilova.
She is not going to be a 'power player' in the same sense you may be used to, with a wood racket. Her problem in the 70's and eighties won't be Navratilova. It will be pinpoint accuracy of Evert. Nobody overpowered an adult Evert with a wood racket and a serve volley game, not Court, not King, not Wade, not Goolagong, not Navratilova. Navratilova got her big edge in the power dept, after she went graphite , and she built up, and before Evert went graphite and did the same. The llonly serve/volleyer with a winning head to head in Chris's entire career was Martina. Martina had a lot more trouble with people who took the net away from her , than Chris did playing them. Evert loved 'target practice' and built her career beating them on carpet, grass, and hard courts as much as she did clay. . Big tall strong women just made it more fun to find the target. Chris knew how to exploit their weaknesses. Once Serena has a graphite racket, this equation will likely change.

I am not saying Serena would not have success against Chris, but I am saying Evert was #1 in the world with that wood racket, not Navratilova and powerful serves hit with those small rackets, did not intimidate Evert. Ask Margaret Court, the ultimate power player back then.
 
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