In Serena Williams’ prolonged essay asserting her impending retirement, she addressed the inescapable document – Margaret Court docket’s 24 Grand Slam singles titles.
Williams received her twenty third title on the Australian Open in 2017. Within the 5 years since, the topic of Court docket’s document has adopted her in all places. The American has been requested about it in virtually each information convention. Pundits discussing her legacy have dissected the topic at size.
“There are individuals who say I am not the GOAT [Greatest of All Time] as a result of I did not move Court docket’s document, which she achieved earlier than the ‘Open period’ that started in 1968,'” Williams wrote.
“I would be mendacity if I stated I did not need that document. Clearly, I do.
“However each day, I am actually not occupied with her. Possibly I considered it an excessive amount of, and that did not assist.”
Williams has by no means allowed herself to be outlined by this document. She is excess of only a quantity.
And it has been argued that Court docket’s document doesn’t precisely characterize the modifications in professionalism in tennis.
BBC Sport takes a more in-depth take a look at the document that Williams, in her personal phrases, “shoulda, woulda, coulda” have damaged.
What are the numbers?
Williams received her first main singles title at her residence Slam with victory within the 1999 US Open. She would win the ultimate one in Melbourne 18 years later, and whereas eight weeks pregnant.
Court docket’s first singles Slam additionally got here on residence soil when she triumphed on the Australian Open in 1960, together with her final coming in New York in 1973.
|Grand Slams||Margaret Court docket||Serena Williams|
Court docket is one among simply 5 ladies to have received a calendar Grand Slam, successful all 4 majors in 1970. That additionally got here in a season the place she received 21 of 27 tournaments and 104 of 110 matches.
Williams has held all 4 Grand Slam titles on the similar time twice in her profession – first in 2002-03 and once more in 2014-15, with the feat nicknamed the ‘Serena Slam’ – however missed out on a calendar Slam in 2015.
Court docket was dominant on the Australian Open with 11 titles there, whereas Williams has lifted trophies seven instances at each Melbourne and Wimbledon.
Completely different period, totally different document?
Williams alluded to the central subject herself in her essay – Court docket received the vast majority of her main titles earlier than the Open period.
The Open period refers to any time after 1968, when Grand Slam tournaments allowed skilled gamers to compete alongside amateurs.
Earlier than the professionalisation of the game, most majors have been contested by amateurs. As a result of the Grand Slams didn’t supply prize cash, the highest gamers, searching for monetary safety, would compete in personal occasions, that means the very best gamers didn’t all the time compete on the majors.
Court docket received 13 of her 24 titles in the course of the beginner period. Many have argued that the opposition throughout this era wouldn’t be the very best commonplace it might be. Moreover, gamers would skip travelling to the Australian Open, the place Court docket was so dominant, even into the late Nineteen Eighties due to travelling prices and the prolonged distance.
None of that is to undermine Court docket’s achievements on a tennis courtroom. However there’ll, for a substantial interval, have been simpler attracts for Court docket due to the highest gamers lacking tournaments, notably at residence.
As Slam attracts expanded and extra gamers turned skilled all through the years, it naturally turned tougher to win. Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova received 18 main titles every between 1974 and 1990. Steffi Graf went 4 higher between 1987 and 1999 to set an Open period document.
Williams has damaged that document. She has performed towards Graf, sister Venus, Kim Clijsters, Maria Sharapova, Monica Seles and Lindsay Davenport, to call a number of. She holds a successful document towards all of those a number of Grand Slam champions.
As these ladies performed in a purely skilled period, it might be argued that that is the usual that Williams, too, must be held to.
When has Williams come shut?
Williams has been inside touching distance of Court docket’s document on a variety of events.
- US Open 2015 – In a loss that she later says broke her coronary heart, the American went down 2-6 6-4 6-4 to Roberta Vinci within the semi-finals. Williams was aiming for a calendar Slam and led 2-0 within the decider earlier than being overwhelmed by the unseeded Italian.
- Wimbledon 2018 – Williams had dropped only one set at SW19 as she reached her first last since getting back from maternity go away. Going through Angelique Kerber, Serena was damaged within the opening sport of the match and couldn’t discover her means again in as Kerber received 6-3 6-3.
- US Open 2018 – Along with her opponent Naomi Osaka enjoying in her first Slam last, Williams was the robust favorite. However in a last dominated by Osaka’s clear hitting and Williams’ outburst at umpire Carlos Ramos, which sparked controversy for months afterwards, the Japanese participant triumphed 6-2 6-4.
- Australian Open 2019 – Enjoying Karolina Pliskova within the quarter-finals, Williams had overturned a first-set deficit and led the deciding set 5-1. Nonetheless, after rolling her ankle, Williams squandered 4 match factors and 6 video games in a row as Pliskova prevailed 6-4 4-6 7-5.
- Wimbledon 2019 – Reaching one other last on her greatest floor, Williams was steamrollered 6-2 6-2 by Simona Halep in 56 minutes, with Halep hitting simply three unforced errors within the match.
- US Open 2019 – As soon as once more going through a first-time Slam finalist at Flushing Meadows, Williams fought again from a double break down within the second set however suffered a fourth consecutive Slam last loss as Bianca Andreescu received 6-3 7-5.
In the end, does it matter?
The quantity 24 has hung over Williams’ head since her return from maternity go away.
Talking after the 2021 Australian Open, the place she reached the semi-finals, Williams admitted beating the document was “frankly the one purpose I am nonetheless enjoying”.
“It is undoubtedly on my shoulders and on my thoughts. I feel it is good to be on my thoughts. I feel it is a totally different burden on my shoulders as a result of I am used to it now. It is extra enjoyable,” she stated.
Her former coach Patrick Mouratoglou additionally stated Williams was “not as obsessive about 24 as most individuals within the tennis world” however conceded it was the one purpose she got here again to the game after a near-death expertise in childbirth.
In an interview since asserting she can be stepping away from tennis, Williams stated she had “already damaged the document” – she has, in any case, received extra majors than any man or lady within the Open period.
Roger Federer beforehand stated Williams is “one of many biggest, if not the best tennis participant of all time,” no matter gender, whereas Mouratoglou made the case that Williams will go down as the best regardless of Court docket’s document.
Since her retirement, Court docket has sparked enormous controversy due to her views on homosexual marriage and LGBTQ+ rights, with figures similar to John McEnroe arguing that her stance undermines her on-court achievements.
Williams has for a very long time been a determine who transcends her sport. She and sister Venus have dominated a traditionally white sport, coping with racism alongside the best way and galvanizing a brand new era of gamers who’re reaping the rewards of the paths they solid.
In Williams’ last Australian Open look, her husband wore a T-shirt with a picture of her and ‘Best Feminine Athlete’ splashed throughout the entrance, with a cross by means of the world feminine. The message was clear.
What makes somebody the best of all time? Is it statistics? The mark they make on their sport, on and off the sphere? Or is it, merely, the best way they make anyone really feel?
Williams has thrilled, astonished, amazed, at instances infuriated however general delighted a whole era of individuals. She is the title that non-tennis followers will recognise, the one who individuals wish to see on the largest stage and who they see as having modified her sport for the higher.
Doesn’t successful 24 Grand Slams in singles undermine that?
“I confirmed up 23 instances, and that is positive,” she stated. “Truly, it is extraordinary.”