Tennis Players Who Changed the Game: Margaret Court Smith

R LSenior Analyst IDecember 3, 2008

Put your notes away. It's time for a pop quiz.

Which female tennis player won the most Grand Slam Singles titles? The majority would believe Steffi Graf and her 22 titles. I know I did.

The fact is, there's a bit of a technicality involved. Margaret Court Smith won 24 Grand Slams over her illustrious career.

Now here's the catch. All of her titles before 1969 aren't included because the tournaments weren't won in the open era.

French Open was once the French Championships, the U.S Open was previously the U.S Championships, and the Australian Open was the Australian Championships. Only Wimbledon's name remained identical.

It's clear that she won 24 titles, but when you look at the standings among other ladies, she's credited with just the 11. I found this particularly interesting when I stumbled across it.

Nonetheless, Smith was much before my time. She won her first singles title at the Australian Championships in 1960, approximately 28 years before my birth.

Two years later, she won three of the four major tournaments. Wimbledon dodged her grasp until 1963 when she became the first Australian woman to win its singles title. In 1965, she won three of the four majors in singles competition along with all four Grand Slam mixed doubles tournaments.

In singles and mixed doubles competition, she won three of the four major titles of each in 1969. It was in 1970, when she won all four Grand Slam singles tournaments in one year, earning herself a "boxed set."

Only Maureen Connolly Brinker in 1953, and Steffi Graf in 1998, won all four titles in one calendar year among women. Her last big year was in 1973. Again, she won three of four in singles and doubles competition for Grand Slams.

Smith played her final Grand Slam singles match at the 1975 U.S Open, losing to Martina Navratilova in the quarterfinals.

Overall, the Australian won a record 62 Grand Slam titles (24 singles, 19 doubles, and 19 mixed doubles).

Ready for some scary statistics?

Out of the 47 Grand Slam singles tournaments she played, Smith reached the finals in 29, the semifinals in 36, and the quarterfinals in 43. In all competitions, she was victorious in 62 of the 85 Grand Slam finals she played, which includes a 24-5 record in singles.

She remains the only player to have won every major in a calendar year in both singles and mixed doubles. The No. 1 ranking was hers on six different occasions (1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1969, 1970).

Against top 10 opponents, her record was 297-73 in singles action.

Bottom line: The numbers tell the story.

The International Tennis Hall of Fame states the following: "For sheer strength of performance and accomplishment there has never been a tennis player to match her."

Bjorn Borg

Ivan Lendl

John McEnroe

Steffi Graf

Martina Navratilova

Monica Seles

Jimmy Connors

Chris Evert

Mats Wilander


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