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Last Updated: Friday, 20 June, 2003, 20:38 GMT 21:38 UK
Court's colourful career
Margaret Court serves at Wimbledon
Court (nee Smith) was the first Australian woman to win Wimbledon
It is 40 years since Margaret Court won the first of her three Wimbledons.

In total the Australian claimed 62 Grand Slam titles, including three singles championships in SW19.

That haul, which remains a record for both men and women, included a Grand Slam in 1970.

But Court believes her life today as a preacher in Perth is more exciting than the years she spent as the world's number one player, breaking records galore.

"When I was playing tennis you knew you were going out and doing the same thing," Court told BBC Sport.

"Being a senior minister in the church is more exciting in many ways because everyday is a different day."

But the course of Court's career has been far from conventional.

The training I did at an early age stood me in good stead for my whole career
Margaret Court

Under the guidance of Frank Sedgman, who set up a rigourous training programme, Court, playing under her maiden name Smith, won the Australian title at the age of 17

It was the first of seven successive domestic wins and, when she claimed her hat-trick of home titles in 1962, only defeat at Wimbledon prevented Court from landing a Grand Slam.

A shock first-round defeat to Billie Jean Moffitt was the only blemish on her major tournament record.

However, 12 months on, Court gained revenge, beating the American in straight sets to complete her haul of major trophies.

A second Wimbledon title followed in 1965, a year when she again missed out on a Grand Slam by the smallest of margins having lost the Roland Garros final.

MARGARET COURT'S TITLES
Australia: 11 singles
1960-66, 1969-71 & 1973
French: 5 singles
1962, 1964, 1969-70 & 1973
Wimbledon: 3 singles
1963, 1965 & 1970
US: 5 singles
1962, 1965, 1969-70 & 1973
19 doubles titles
19 mixed doubles titles & 1963 Grand Slam with Ken Fletcher

But at the height of her career, with 13 major titles in the bag and at the age of 23, she quit the sport.

"I'd won everything and decided to retire," Court explained.

"I headed to Perth in Western Australia because no-one knew me there, it was a good, isolated place"

"In that time I played squash, which kept me reasonably fit, I got to number two in the state and I met my husband.

"I don't know why, but I said to him 'why don't we go for one year and you can see the life I led on the tennis circuit'."

One year turned into eight.

"In that first year I got to number two and somebody said to me 'you've gone so close with three, why don't you go for the Grand Slam'."

And in 1970 three became four as Court won Wimbledon, for a third time, and successfully defended the other major titles she had clinched the year before.

A year on she made her last Centre Court final appearance.

I played at a great time with great champions and friends - I don't think they have that today
Margaret Court

"I'd beaten Evonne Goolagong quite easily on eight or nine occasions, but there I am in the final of Wimbledon and all my co-ordination and timing went," she admitted.

"I thought there was something wrong with me and found out that I was three months pregnant."

But motherhood did not stop Court from competing.

"I had another goal. I wanted to be the first mum to be number one and I achieved that."

She won another three major titles in 1973, only missing out on Wimbledon.

But on coming back in 1975 after a second pregnancy, Court found that her "heart wasn't there anymore", and so began another career.

It is hard to believe how it could be more exciting than being one of the greatest female tennis players in the history of the sport.




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