Margaret Court won 24 Grand Slam singles titles, more than any player—man or woman—in history.
Born Margaret Smith in Albury, located in the state of New South Wales in eastern Australia, July 16, 1942, she was the fourth of Lawrence Smith and Catherine Beaufort’s four children. A natural left-hander, Margaret switched to a right-handed grip when she began playing tennis at eight. Smith was 16 when she competed for the first time at the Australian Championships, losing in the second round to eventual winner Lesley Turner Bowrey. She won it the following year, the first of seven consecutive Australian Open titles she won between 1960 and 1966. In 1962, Smith became the first female player from Australia to win a major championship abroad when she won the French and U.S. Opens. Her only loss in the 1962 majors came at Wimbledon, where she was beaten by Billie Jean Moffit [later King]. In 1963, Smith became the first Australian woman to win Wimbledon. After winning her seventh straight Australian Open championship and claiming two titles each at Wimbledon, the French and the U.S. Open, Miss Smith retired from tennis in 1966. The following year, she married Barry Court and changed her name to Margaret Court.
Prior to 1968, the four major championships in tennis—known as Grand Slam events, were only open to amateur players. The Open Era began in 1968 when the Grand Slam tournaments agreed to allow professional players to compete with amateurs. The Open Era allowed all tennis players the same opportunity to make a living playing the game. Margaret Court returned to tennis in 1968. One year later, she won three of the four Grand Slam titles—in both singles and mixed doubles. In 1970, she had one of the finest seasons in the annals of tennis, becoming the first woman of the Open Era [and second in history] to win all four majors in the same season, a feat replicated by Steffi Graf [Daily Dose, 10/5/15] in 1988. Court finished the 1970 season ranked World Number One, the sixth time in her career that she attained the top women’s ranking. Despite giving birth to three children between 1972 and 1976, Court managed to capture ten Grand Slam titles, including four in singles competitions. Upon learning that she was pregnant with her fourth child in 1977, she retired from competitive tennis.
Margaret Court dominated women’s tennis in the 1960s and early 70s. She is the first woman during the Open Era to win the singles Grand Slam and captured 24 majors titles, a record that still stands. The “Aussie Amazon” also won 19 women’s doubles and 21 mixed doubles titles, giving her a record 64 major championships. A Career Boxed Set refers to winning one of every possible Grand Slam title [singles, double, mixed] over the course of a career. No male player has accomplished this, while three women have [Doris Hart, Margaret Court, Martina Navratilova]. Margaret Court won a boxed set twice—both before and after the Open Era, and is the only player to have won all 12 Grand Slam events twice. Court combined a powerful serve, exceptional endurance and a blanketing net attack to dominate her era like no player in tennis history. She won three of the season’s four major singles titles in four separate years. Dubbed “The Arm” by Billie Jean King for her formidable reach, Mrs. Court won a record 11 Australian Open singles titles, including seven in a row. In 38 Grand Slam singles tournaments between 1962 and 1973, Court reached 27 finals, winning 22 of them. Her Open Era singles career winning percentage of 91.37 percent is unequaled, as his her winning percentage [91.7] in Grand Slam finals.
In January 1967, Margaret Smith was made Member of the Order of the British Empire. Forty years later, she was made an Officer of the Order of Australia. Margaret Court Arena is the show court in Melbourne Park, home of the Australian Open. It was named in 2003, the same year Australia put her image on a postage stamp. Court is a member of the Sport Australia Hall of Fame as well as the Australian Tennis Hall of Fame. She is a two-time recipient of the ABC Sportsman of the Year Award and, in 1979, was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
On this date in 1965, Margaret Smith beat Billie Jean Moffit, [8-6, 7-5] to win the U.S. National Championship singles title at Forest Hills in Queens, New York. In that same tournament, Smith partnered with Australia’s Fred Stole to beat Judy Tegart and Frank Froehling [6-2, 6-2] to win the Mixed Doubles title.