From the Grandstand by Col Hennessy


 Well, the Australian Open is now in full swing and there will be plenty of controversy about any number of issues particularly if it relates to any of our players.

I want to talk about Margaret Court who I met a few times when I was a sportsmaster at Albury in the late 60’s and 70’s. I won’t go down the controversial road surrounding her latest Australia Day award or indeed her religious beliefs. Such topics are frowned upon here in the grandstand.

What I will say is that she thoroughly deserves to have the arena named after her as she is still the greatest female tennis player we have produced.

I remember when I first saw her on the grass courts at Albury. She was a huge specimen. Far from petite you might say. She looked like an AFL ruckman and would have excelled at the current women’s game of that code (but she probably would not play with some of her team-mates given her controversial stance).

Let me digress for a moment and remind you that at the time Albury had over twenty lawn tennis courts in operation adjacent to the Hume Highway. You could hire them out and their condition was superb (almost as good as the Iluka Croquet lawn). With a name like Court, you would have to think she was going to play a racquet sport of some sort. What about that American tennis player called Tennys (Sandgreen)? Did tennis choose him, or did he prefer golf I wonder. I bet you didn’t know he actually comes from Tennessee. True! Enough of the distractions and back to the main story.

 I don’t think spectators in the grandstand here with me realise just how good she was.  At the moment Serena Williams is chasing her record number of 24 grand slam singles titles. That may still happen and although she is in her late 30’s more and more athletes are able to compete for much longer given all the advances in sports medicine. That’s a column for another day.

Actually, you have to look at Court’s entire championship list. She actually won 64 grand slam events. It was not uncommon in those days to play in doubles competition as well and some like Court even included mixed doubles. There were another twenty titles in each of these. They would often have to play the final of such events on the same day only broken by a shower and meal. I’m not sure if my then girlfriend in Albury dropped me for my lack of talent or style. She was one of the many ladies in Albury who were told that they too could go to Wimbledon like Margaret.

Despite all the controversies recent polls have shown her to be the best ever tennis player, EVER. She polls well ahead of Laver, Federer etc and you cannot ignore the facts. What is ironical is that her long-term nemesis and champion was Billie Jean King an avowed feminist and lesbian.