Love the Legends of Tennis
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Sydney, Australia
Re: Margaret Court vs Billie Jean King.
I think the posters here have summed things up pretty well.
Court definately had the more powerful serve (1st and 2nd serves were both aggressive) but they were both relatively flat and therefore she was prone to double faulting, esp when things got tight. She certainly double faulted her way to losing the 75 Wimbledon SF against Goolagong as she had chances in both sets. And considering Goolagong got walloped in the final by King that was a shame. Even though her serves were both powerful, Evert for example, was able to cope with it better than King's because it was flat. King had more variety on both serves and certainly set her up well for many freebies and easy volleys.
The thing about a hard flat serve is that it doesn't give the net rusher as much time to get to the net behind it. And King had an advantage with her spins to get in and play the first volley closer to the net from what I have observed. Serve goes to King but Court did have a great first serve and along with Ginny Wade they were the two big servers of their generation. Although Bueno also had a very good razor like serve!
Agree with Alfa. 1st serve to Court. 2nd serve to King.
King had perhaps the best volleys in the game (man or woman). Her touch was exquisite. She could place them at will, wrong foot opponents with them, and her drop volley was fantastic. Court's volleys were sound but she lacked the touch. As Alfa mentioned, being a natural born leftie but converted to play as a right hander would have been a factor in her lack of touch and also her less graceful game. I am sure it was also a factor in her being so keen to do gym work to build up her strength to offset this. Volleys to King.
Court had a tremendous smash, but so did King. I think Court had the advantage though as she was much taller and also had the long arms so her reach was amazing. It did make it hard for the girls to lob and pass her BUT Evert was such a magician that she often lobbed Court for outright winners. But not many of the other girls were able to do this. I would give the smash to Court.
Forehand to Court. I know some people mention it getting shaky, but more often than not it could be quite a devastating weapon. She did take a long raking swing, and generated a lot of power. It was flattish in nature and often even with a bit of underspin at times. She would regularly chip and charge with a sliced forehand which was very effective on grass as the ball would bite and stay low. King had a serviceable forehand but it wasn't a weapon by and large. But she could mix it up with topspin, flat or slice and did give people hell with her variety.
Backhand is a closer call than one might think. King had an outstanding backhand, and she could slice, hit flat or with topspin on occasion. But more often it was a slice shot with a lot of bight. She had great touch with this shot and could hit outstanding drop shots with it as well. Margaret's was basically a flattish slice but it was consistently deep and accurate. I have also seen her use it to bring others in to the net with an angled short slice. Alfa did mention this, but Court did have a fantastic ability to pass players at the net with her backhand, esp the down the line shot. It was very accurate and she relied on this a lot. I think the backhand is a tough one to call - so a draw from my perspective.
I think overall from the baseline, I give the nod to Court. Her clay court record is incredible. Winning 5/10 French Open crowns and dominating many of the premier clay court events of the day is testamount to this. And a number of her peers have commented on the fact that she was one of the rare players in history to be just as good from the back of the court as at the net. King on the other hand gets the nod for her net play and her volleying skills are definately some of the best the sport has ever seen. I think even Pat Cash modelled his volleys on the great Billie-Jean King. Pretty impressive compliment from someone who regularly slags off womens tennis!
Both girls were good movers. Court was a big framed girl but moved incredibly well. She was timed to run 100 yards at great speed and could have represented Australia at the Olympics had she have gone down this path. One just has to watch her running back to chase some of the lobs against Bueno (64), King (70) and Evert (all 4 clashes in 73) to see how fast Margaret was. Plus she was quick enough to run down some of King's amazing drop shots in the 70 final as well. King was also very fast around the court, taking quicker steps compared to Court's longer strides. Both girls were always on the balls of their feet. There is some stunning footage of Court leaping and running about the court in the 73 USO footage (not sure which match - SF or Final). But it showed just how agile and athletic Court really was. I would give the movement to Court.
The one thing I always make a mention of these days is that although Court did choke on a few big occasions I think the association is highly overused. I mean the girl won 24 of her 29 GS Singles Final. Now that is simply astonishing, and she really was a choker she would not have been able to have achieved such an incredible winning ratio in all of those Major Finals. Added to that fact is that is that she was able to dig deep and come from the brink of defeat in a number of big matches eg. down 2-5 against the great claycourter Turner at the French Final (early 60s), coming back from 2-5 final set French Semis against great claycourter Richey, coming back against Evert in the 73 French etc. So IMO she was much stronger mentally than most people give her credit for.
King was perhaps the greatest competitor the game has seen. She relished a challenge and was almost always up for it. 69 Aussie Final and one of the USO matches v Heldman were a few examples of when she tanked it. But she was such a tough cookie mentally and I also think she used a bit of gamesmanship at times and intimidation to out-psyche many opponents. It wasn't just a tennis game for King, it was also about getting into the opponent's head. Court was the polar opposite in this regard, politely going about her way on the court, rarely making a scene over bad calls (although I have seen her cop many). King was much more demonstrative on court. Another reason why so many, including myself, loved watching her play. You just knew it was going to be entertaining and lots of passion and drama.
So mentally, I would give the edge to King. But I don't think Court was a choker ... I think she was one of the most mentally tough ever. She just bombed out against Riggs in a circus like atmosphere and a couple of other key matches. But these were the exception rather than the norm.
Anyway, that's just my two cents worth.
Both legends. Both phenomenal players. And both in my all time top 10 players (women).
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60s/70s: Evonne Goolagong .. Francoise Durr .. Chris Evert .. Margaret Court .. Nancy Richey .. Maria Bueno .. Billie-Jean King .. Lesley Turner .. Virginia Wade .. Ken Rosewall .. Rod Laver .. Bjorn Borg ..
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