Margaret Court AO, MBE (née Smith; born 16 July 1942), also known as Margaret Smith Court, is a retired World No. 1 professional tennis player and Christian minister from Australia. She is best known for her sporting career, in which she amassed more Major titles than any other player in history.
In 1970, Court became the first woman during the open era (and the second woman in history) to win the singles Grand Slam (all four majors in the same calendar year). Court won a (still current) record 24 of those titles during her career. She also won 19 women's doubles and 19 mixed doubles titles, giving her a record 62 Major titles overall. She is the only woman to win the mixed doubles Grand Slam, and she did it twice. Her all time, all surfaces (hard, clay, grass and carpet) singles career winning percentage of 91.68 (1180–107) is an all-time record. Her Open era singles career winning percentage of 91.37% (593–56) is also unequaled. Her win-loss performance in all Grand Slam singles tournaments was 90.12% (210–23). She was 95.31% (61–3) at the Australian Open, 90.38% (47–5) at the French Open, 85.10% (51–9) at Wimbledon and 89.47% (51–6) at the US Open. She also shares the Open Era record for most Grand Slam singles titles as a mother with Kim Clijsters. The International Tennis Hall of Fame states, "For sheer strength of performance and accomplishment there has never been a tennis player to match (her)". She is regarded by some to be the greatest female tennis player of all time.
Having converted from Catholicism to Pentecostalism in the 1970s, Court became a Pentecostal Christian minister in 1991, and later founded the Margaret Court Ministries. She is noted as a vocal critic of LGBT rights in Australia.
Margaret Smith was the youngest of the four children of Lawrence Smith and Catherine Smith (née Beaufort). She has two older brothers, Kevin and Vincent, and a sister, June. She is a natural left-hander who was persuaded to change to a right hand grip. She began playing tennis when she was eight years old and was 17 when she won the first of seven consecutive singles titles at the 1960 Australian Championships.
Court became the first female player from Australia to win a Grand Slam tournament abroad, when she won the French and US Championships in 1962. The year after that, she became the first Australian woman to win Wimbledon.
After Wimbledon in 1966, Court temporarily retired from tennis. She married Barry Court in 1967, whose father, Sir Charles Court, and brother, Richard Court, would both go on to serve aspremiers of Western Australia. She returned to tennis in 1968 and won all four Grand Slam singles titles in 1970. The next year, she lost the Wimbledon singles final to Evonne Goolagong Cawley while pregnant with her first child, Daniel, who was born in March 1972. Court made a comeback the same year and played in the US Open and played throughout 1973. Her second child, Marika, was born in 1974. She started playing again in 1975. After missing most of 1976 after having her third child, she returned to the tour in early 1977 but retired permanently in 1977 when she learned that she was expecting her fourth child. Her last Grand Slam appearance was in 1975.
Court is one of only three players to have achieved a career "boxed set" of Grand Slam titles, winning every possible Grand Slam title – singles, same-sex doubles and mixed doubles – at all four Grand Slam events. The others are Doris Hart and Martina Navratilova. Court, however, is the only person to have won all 12 Grand Slam events at least twice. She also is unique in having completed a boxed set before the start of the open era in 1968 and a separate boxed set after the start of the open era.
Court lost a heavily publicised and US–televised challenge match to a former World No. 1 male tennis player, the 55-year-old Bobby Riggs, on 13 May 1973, in Ramona, California. Court was the top-ranked women's player at the time, and it has been reported that she did not take the match seriously, due to it being an exhibition. Using a mixture of lobs and drop shots, Riggs beat her 6–2, 6–1. Four months later, Billie Jean King beat Riggs in the Battle of the Sexes match in the Houston Astrodome.
- 1962 – Won three of the four Grand Slam singles tournaments.
- 1963 – Became the first Australian woman to win a singles title at Wimbledon. She and Ken Fletcher became the only team to win all four Grand Slam mixed doubles titles during the same calendar year.
- 1964 – Won three of the four Grand Slam mixed doubles tournaments. Her women's doubles title at Wimbledon completed her career "boxed set" of Grand Slam titles.
- 1965 – Won three of the four Grand Slam singles tournaments and all four Grand Slam mixed doubles titles, with three different partners.
- 1966 – Temporarily retired.
- 1969 – Won three of the four Grand Slam singles and mixed doubles tournaments.
- 1970 – Won all four Grand Slam singles tournaments, defeating Kerry Melville Reid in the Australian Open final, Helga Niessen Masthoff in the French Open final, Billie Jean King in the Wimbledon final, and Rosemary Casals in the US Open final. Maureen Connolly Brinker in 1953 and Steffi Graf in 1988 are the only other women who have won all four Grand Slam singles tournaments during the same calendar year.
- 1971 – Won the Australian Championship for the 10th time. After losing the Wimbledon Singles Final, temporarily retired to prepare for the birth of her first child in March 1972.
- 1972 – Returned to the tour after missing the Wimbledon Championships.
- 1973 – Won three of the four Grand Slam singles and women's doubles tournaments. Became the first mother in the open era to win the Australian, French and US Open Championships. Lost her match with Bobby Riggs. Her women's doubles title at the US Open completed a "boxed set" of Grand Slam titles won exclusively after the start of the open era in 1968.
- 1974 – Absent from the game due to the birth of her second child.
- 1975 – Played the final Grand Slam singles match of her career, losing to Martina Navratilova in a quarterfinal of the US Open 6–2, 6–4. Partnered with Virginia Wade at the US Open to win her 62nd Grand Slam title and 19th Grand Slam women's doubles title, defeating King and Casals in the final. This was Court's last Grand Slam title.
- 1976 – Absent from the game due to the birth of her third child.
- 1977 – Played the final singles match of her career, defeating Greer Stevens in the third round of the Virginia Slims Championships of Detroit 5–7, 7–6, 6–3. Court defaulted the quarterfinal to Françoise Durr upon learning that she was pregnant with her fourth child.