We’ve all read at least one of the many articles that came out earlier this week regarding Margaret Court’s latest interview. In it, she compares herself (AGAIN) to Serena Williams in an apparent effort to undermine her greatness while pumping up her own.
Um… no, Margaret. You had your run as the GOAT decades ago. Even if you could compare apples to oranges, Serena beats you to your core.
By the way, the true GOAT isn’t measured by statistics alone. I mean, if Hitler had won the most Grand Slams, would he be honored as GOAT? I think not.
Other factors should be considered when naming someone “The Greatest of All Time.”
We’ve come up with five criteria that every sports GOAT should meet:
- Their wins (statistics)
- Their impact on their sport
- The level of respect, both given and received
- Their career longevity
- And their effect outside their sport.
Rarely will an athlete meet all of these five categories, but the few who do should certainly be considered one of the greatest of all time!
Margaret Court compared herself to Serena Williams as GOAT, based on total wins alone, but let’s see how Mags really measures up.
Let’s get this elephant in the room out of the way first.
When considering Margaret Court’s “stats,” there are two numbers: one for the pre-Open Era and one for the Open Era. They’ve got to be separate because, well, tennis was different before 1968.
A little pre-Open history: During this time (before 1968), players like Court were only allowed to compete with amateurs. Also, since amateurs couldn’t win prize money, and not many women had the luxury of uprooting for 10+ months at a time to play tennis for free, the draws were very small on the women’s side (around 32 women compared to 128 today.)
FYI: Of all Margaret’s opponents, Billie Jean King is the only one who went on to have a successful career in the Open Era. That’s pretty telling of how tough (or not) the competition was back then.
That said, the Grand Slam count for Court is:
- 36 in pre-Open Era: 13 (singles), 9 (doubles), 14 (mixed doubles)
- 28 in Open Era: 11 (singles), 10 (doubles), 7 (mixed doubles)
On the other hand, Serena has played all her matches in the Open Era, with all professional players and huge draws. Her Grand Slam count is:
- 39 in Open Era: 23 (singles), 14 (doubles), 2 (mixed doubles)
- 4 Olympic gold medals
I’m pretty confident that had Serena played in the pre-Open Era, with only a small draw of amateurs as the competition, she would have significantly more Grand Slam titles than Margaret.
And don’t bother comparing the equipment, etc… Had Serena played tennis back then, she would have kicked ass with a wooden racquet too!
Impact On Their Sport
I’ll start with Serena on this topic because she’s Serena 🎾🐐🙌.
Serena Williams is an icon who helped change the game for women in sport, particularly Black women, in a predominantly white male sport. She showed the world that girls with black skin, braids, and muscles are beautiful, and that they can compete with the best in the sport – and win! She let the racists know that their nasty words won’t stop her from making her dreams come true. And she let the guys know that women can yell, fist-pump, and break racquets – just as good as they can.
Serena has also been very vocal about equality in gender pay in the sports world. “The day I stop fighting for equality…will be the day I’m in my grave.” In 2005, Venus Williams pushed Wimbledon and the French Open to offer equal pay to all players to succeed. A year and a half later, Wimbledon said it would offer men and women the same prize pay, and the French Open followed shortly after. Serena and Venus also joined the advisory board of the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative, which fights for inclusive leadership.
That’s just a fraction of what Serena has done for tennis. What has Margaret Court done for women’s tennis?
Respect and Admiration
You can’t be a GOAT of anything if you don’t have respect from your peers and everyone else, and Serena has both. Little girls look up to her. They want to be like her, and she has shown them that if they work hard, they can do anything!
And it’s not just little girls. It’s everyone else, too – non-tennis players included. Did you see the incredible display of love, respect, and admiration for this woman during her last professional tournament? The stadium was packed, and the crowd was on its feet, honoring Serena with continuous thunderous applause. OMG. I literally felt the love through my screen.
I can’t exclude Serena’s “controversies,” though they pale compared to Margaret Court’s. On more than one occasion, she cracked a racquet mid-match (um…so?); she’s been accused of receiving coaching from her box (like she needed it), and she’s had more than her share of emotional outbursts on the court (although some of them seemed justified as the calls that were made seemed very sexist).
As for Marge… in her latest grab for attention, Court said she admired Serena:
“Serena, I’ve admired her as a player,” Court says. “But I don’t think she has ever admired me.”
First, I would never assume who Serena does or doesn’t admire, though I’ll wager that she doesn’t admire Mags — because she is unworthy of admiration. When Court says she “admires” Williams, it’s pretty laughable, considering her personal history shows an inherent inability to admire any black person.
In 1970 Court applauded apartheid in South Africa, praising the nation’s racism and segregation policy as the best way to manage racial inequality.
“South Africans have this thing better organized than any other country, particularly America.”
And what was apartheid, you ask? It was one of the most brutally racist and inhumane segregation systems in the modern world — ensuring that the minority white ruling class maintained control over the predominantly black population. These policies forced 3.5M South Africans from their homes and into segregated neighborhoods equivalent to slums, imprisoned Nelson Mandela, and led to the death of nearly 10,000 black South Africans from 1960-1994.
It was cold-blooded and shockingly inhumane, yet Margaret Court says it was being “organized.” Why would anyone — especially someone of color — admire a person with these views?
And the Australian’s hatred didn’t stop there. She vocalized her homophobic views as well.
“…we are living in a season … even that LGBT and the schools — it’s of the devil, it’s not of God … ”
Since then, she’s double-downed on hating the LGBTQ+ community, leading to calls for her name to be removed from Margaret Court Arena in Melbourne.
That hasn’t happened – yet – but it certainly will in time. Court disappears and resurfaces every few years to complain about how tennis has snubbed her, all while proving time and time again why she deserves to be forgotten.
Effect Outside of Their Sport
Oh, man… I will keep this section short because there is sooooo much to say here (about Serena).
Serena uses her celebrity to promote positivity: about the game, motherhood, and life. She’s not just an all-time tennis great; she’s a philanthropist, a fashion icon and designer, an entrepreneur, a public figure of unparalleled influence, and an avatar of power, grace, and fierce independence. She is Serena.
And Margaret Court is Margaret Court, a tennis great turned religious zealot. In 1995 she founded a Pentecostal Christian church, the Victory Life Centre, outside Perth, West Australia, where she still serves as pastor. It’s the only place she can preach her bigotry and hate and feel loved.
Serena has been on our TV screens and in our hearts for nearly 30 years, and no doubt will be forever more… and people welcome that.
As for Maggie, she officially retired in 1977 after an 18-year-long career. She was not active in the tennis community, so she was easy to forget. We are only occasionally reminded she still exists when occasionally, at an Australian Open match, the camera will find her frowning face in the crowd, or in this case, she comes out of her cave to complain about something or someone in an interview. People want her to go away, like, forever.
Not only was she kicked out of her tennis club for her bigoted and racist views, but people worldwide and in her homeland want her name stripped from the Margaret Court Arena at Melbourne Park in Victoria, the site of the Australian Open, and for it to be renamed.
That hasn’t yet happened, but it will in due time. Every time the 80-year-old resurfaces to complain about how tennis has snubbed her, we are reminded time and time again why she deserves to be forgotten.
In the end, it is what it is. Margaret Court is a bitter, jealous, and irrelevant old woman. She blew up her own reputation and legacy because of her prejudices. She now brands criticism of her views as “bullying” (not when she does it, though 🙄) because of her religious beliefs and whines about how nobody wants to honor her anymore — even in her native Australia.
The world is growing and evolving, Marge. Apartheid is dead, and the LGBTQ+ is here to stay.
And until another spectacular girl rises and takes her place, Serena Williams is today’s GOAT… period.