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post #1 of 82 (permalink) Old May 10th, 2011, 03:56 AM Thread Starter
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Margaret Court vs Billie Jean King.

How would you compare them game wise? Not really match up or career wise, but just who did what better?
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post #2 of 82 (permalink) Old May 10th, 2011, 09:09 AM
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Re: Margaret Court vs Billie Jean King.

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Originally Posted by rimon View Post
How would you compare them game wise? Not really match up or career wise, but just who did what better?
Now that's a terrific question. Having seen video of both players at the peak of their talents, there are several things to take into consideration. First, Margaret was a much bigger girl. I've stood next to her and can confirm she's every bit as tall as me, and I'm 5'11". Her game was powerful yet very stiff in comparison as she was a natural lefty taught to play right-handed. Sort of the opposite of Rafael Nadal without the topspin if you will. She had terrific reach due to both her quickness and noticeably long arms and reach at the net. This, coupled with her consistent and potent attacking style (Cliff Drysdale once said "now there's a girl who would come in on the kitchen sink") made her very difficult to stop, and she had a fantastic overhead as well as serve. She had a potent forehand with a huge swing, and the forehand seemed to break down at times because so much could go wrong if she didn't time it perfectly. On grass, it's amazing to see her take such long loopy swings given the small amount of time you have. Her backhand was almost always a driving slice, which was very consistent and a perfect approach. Some of her passing shots with a slice are among the best I've ever seen. All things considered, I'd say she was an ostrich compared to Goolagong's Barn Swallow.

Billie Jean, on the other hand, was 5'5" (same size as Justine Henin) with some of the best hands at the net ever, including both male and female players. Her game was probably the most aggressive net rushing game of her day, and she read the ball at the net better than most everyone around her. Margaret once made reference to the fact that Billie Jean didn't like to hit a forehand in close to her body. Billie Jean's backhand was great, especially on the chip return of serve. She could put it on a dime, and hit it with aggressive authority that intimidated many players. I'd say her game was more natural than Margaret's, largely due to the lefty issue mentioned above. Her serve was really great, considering her size. The timing was nearly perfect, and her variety of spins and placements made it great. She also had the ability to adjust and vary her style of play at any given moment to adjust to the opponent, and frequently changed her game plan unexpectedly, which gave many opponents fits (Martina comes to mind).

Given both players playing their best games against each other, I'd say it's a toss-up on who would win.

There is nothing more beautiful than Evonne Goolagong in full flight moving across a tennis court.

Last edited by alfajeffster; May 10th, 2011 at 11:53 AM.
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post #3 of 82 (permalink) Old May 10th, 2011, 01:51 PM
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Re: Margaret Court vs Billie Jean King.

well head to head court has a bit of the edge over billie jean, but for the 2 greatest players of their era, they didn't play that much, i mean i think under 20 times from the early 60's until maggie's final retirement in mid 1977! now, granted, there were the times for court's pregnancies and either player being out due to injury, and of course there were great players other then them during this era, but still these 2 are the greatest of their time (add bueno in her prime if you like as well) and yet they didnt play that much against each other.

evert once said in comparing the two that court had better groundstrokes, had better reach at net and more sound technically and was more powerful, and that king's forehand was a weakness, but if she had to bet her life on just 1 match between the two she would put her money on billie jean. i guess due to her WILL TO WIN?! also, i think king was a way better technican and strategist, she could hit every ball in the book, and knew how to use them, court was pretty much all power and endurance and strength.

evert had more problems with king than court due to king's tactics and mind and variety and yes, will to win, although evert of course came out ahead of both king and court head to head.
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post #4 of 82 (permalink) Old May 11th, 2011, 12:18 PM
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Re: Margaret Court vs Billie Jean King.

IMO - from what I read, and observed (not first hand, but on tape and tv) Margaret was subject to "bouts" (sorry couldn't come up with another word) to nerves at critical times in matches. I never saw this charastic with Billie Jean.
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post #5 of 82 (permalink) Old May 11th, 2011, 02:00 PM
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Re: Margaret Court vs Billie Jean King.

Quote:
IMO - from what I read, and observed (not first hand, but on tape and tv) Margaret was subject to "bouts" (sorry couldn't come up with another word) to nerves at critical times in matches. I never saw this charastic with Billie Jean.
King could get nervous at times too (I love the term BK used for this "el choko"), but yes, Court was known for getting real tight, much like Navratilova.

I would say the one area where was most apparent was the serve. Court's first serve was a killer when it was on, better than King's IMO. What Margaret lacked though was spin on her second serve, so like many of the women pros when she was "off" or nervous she could serve scads of double faults.

By contrast King had more spin, so her second serve serve held up beautifully under pressure. Billie Jean was convinced her second serve won her the 1974 US Open over Evonne Goolagong, and I concur.

There is merit in the phrase "You are only as good as your second serve."

Last edited by Rollo; May 11th, 2011 at 02:18 PM.
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post #6 of 82 (permalink) Old May 11th, 2011, 05:22 PM
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Re: Margaret Court vs Billie Jean King.

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There is merit in the phrase "You are only as good as your second serve."
How on earth could Francoise Durr have won anything then!!!!

Margaret Thatcher - Michele Bachmann two strong women of our time.
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post #7 of 82 (permalink) Old May 11th, 2011, 10:30 PM
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Re: Margaret Court vs Billie Jean King.

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How on earth could Francoise Durr have won anything then!!!!
LOL Chris!

Perhaps the other players died of boredom waiting for it to come over. I recall one person joking that Frankie could run to the net before her serve would get there!

Ann Jones had some very interesting things to say while commenting on a Court-King match. I love what I have heard of her TV announcing.
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post #8 of 82 (permalink) Old May 11th, 2011, 10:55 PM
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Re: Margaret Court vs Billie Jean King.

court did indeed have the more powerful harder first serve, king the better second serve. i do think king had more variety in her serves, both first and second, she could hit it flat, slice it, top it, etcetera.

in regard to returning court and king's serve, evert could handle court's first serve more, thriving on the hard flat ball. evert had more trouble with the variety of king's serve first and second.

of course, the follow up is then what about who was fastest to the net after that serve? court or king? who had the better first volley? court or king? not only the first volley to hit a clean winner off of, but the first volley to set up the second shot/winning shot?
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post #9 of 82 (permalink) Old May 12th, 2011, 08:15 AM
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Re: Margaret Court vs Billie Jean King.

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Originally Posted by laschutz View Post
...of course, the follow up is then what about who was fastest to the net after that serve? court or king? who had the better first volley? court or king? not only the first volley to hit a clean winner off of, but the first volley to set up the second shot/winning shot?
Billie Jean King was much the better volleyer. Even she once commented on Court's net play "she doesn't have good hands". I actually think Billie Jean is the best female volleyer that I've ever seen (this includes Navratilova). Chris Evert was in the commentary booth for a Martina match in the early 90s, when Navratilova punched a beautiful backhand volley off of her shoelaces for a winner. Chris' immediate response was "that's a Billie Jean King volley".

Margaret Court did have a good volley made great by her constant attacking style of play and intimidating presence at the net. With such a long reach up there, she was difficult to pass and had the best overhead just in case the opponent thought to lob. Margaret just didn't put the ball away up there off of the first volley the way Billie Jean did.

There is nothing more beautiful than Evonne Goolagong in full flight moving across a tennis court.
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post #10 of 82 (permalink) Old May 12th, 2011, 01:03 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Margaret Court vs Billie Jean King.

Thanks everyone so much for your replies. I am also interested to you know, how would you break down their games in terms of who had the better:

Serve (including first and second). I get the notion that some think that Margaret had the beter first serve, Billie Jean the better second.
Volleys (backhand and forehand separately).
Smash.
Forehand.
Backhand.
Return.
Movement.
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post #11 of 82 (permalink) Old May 12th, 2011, 02:03 PM
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Re: Margaret Court vs Billie Jean King.

Serve (including first and second). I get the notion that some think that Margaret had the beter first serve, Billie Jean the better second. AGREED.

Volleys (backhand and forehand separately).
Billie Jean had more natural movement and deft touch or power at her disposal. No comparison- hands down BJK

Smash.
Margaret Court had, in Chris Evert's own words "the best overhead in the women's game".

Forehand.
Margaret Court's forehand was very powerful, and a real weapon when she slammed it cross court, usually for a winner. Both players had problems off the ground with forehands at times, Margaret because she had such a long loopy swing that required perfect timing, and Billie Jean (IMO) because she had a natural forehand volley and the feeling carried over to her forehand at times in that she hit it too flat and even sometimes with a chipping underspin that cost her depth and consistency at times. More often than not, she used her forehand as an approach, not a rallying staple.

Backhand.
Madge's backhand was her best shot, and from the baseline far more consistent than Billie Jean's, who never was a real baseliner.

Return.
A toss up, really. I'd give the edge to Margaret only because she was better from the baseline and more consistent. Billie Jean tended to hit her groundies and passing shots too hard and flat to be that great on the baseline.

Movement.
Again, a toss up, as Margaret did stay back more than Billie Jean. They were both quick, but Court had an edge having been a regular sprinter when she was young.

There is nothing more beautiful than Evonne Goolagong in full flight moving across a tennis court.
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post #12 of 82 (permalink) Old May 12th, 2011, 02:16 PM
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Re: Margaret Court vs Billie Jean King.

I think the posters here have summed things up pretty well.

SERVE
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.

VOLLEYS

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.

SMASH

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

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

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!

MOVEMENT

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.

MENTAL TOUGHNESS

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).

Fave recent players: .. Seles .. Hingis .. Serena .. Venus .. Federer .. Roddick .. Hewitt .. Haas .. Rafter .. Safin .. Radwanska ..
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 ..
Entertainers: .. Diana Ross .. Dionne Warwick .. Shirley Bassey .. Randy Crawford .. Burt Bacharach .. ABBA .. Woody Allen .. Maggie Smith .. Gena Rowlands .. Judy Davis .. Heath Ledger .. Little Britain ..
Inspiration: .. Jeshua Ben Josepth .. Conversations with God .. Abraham with Esther & Jerry Hicks .. P'taah ..
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post #13 of 82 (permalink) Old May 12th, 2011, 02:25 PM
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Re: Margaret Court vs Billie Jean King.

Quote:
Originally Posted by chris whiteside View Post
How on earth could Francoise Durr have won anything then!!!!
Made me laugh!

Add that to her crazy backhand and volleys and you do wonder! But what a tennis brain, she certainly knew where to hit the ball.

Fave recent players: .. Seles .. Hingis .. Serena .. Venus .. Federer .. Roddick .. Hewitt .. Haas .. Rafter .. Safin .. Radwanska ..
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 ..
Entertainers: .. Diana Ross .. Dionne Warwick .. Shirley Bassey .. Randy Crawford .. Burt Bacharach .. ABBA .. Woody Allen .. Maggie Smith .. Gena Rowlands .. Judy Davis .. Heath Ledger .. Little Britain ..
Inspiration: .. Jeshua Ben Josepth .. Conversations with God .. Abraham with Esther & Jerry Hicks .. P'taah ..
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post #14 of 82 (permalink) Old May 12th, 2011, 08:31 PM
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Re: Margaret Court vs Billie Jean King.

Previous threads devoted to this subject, per our magnificent Thread Finder:

How were Margaret Court and Billie Jean King rivals?
Court vs. King
1970 Wimbledon Final- Margaret Court vs. Billie Jean King

Last edited by austinrunner; May 12th, 2011 at 08:46 PM.
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post #15 of 82 (permalink) Old May 12th, 2011, 08:43 PM
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Re: Margaret Court vs Billie Jean King.

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Originally Posted by laschutz View Post
well head to head court has a bit of the edge over billie jean, but for the 2 greatest players of their era, they didn't play that much, i mean i think under 20 times from the early 60's until maggie's final retirement in mid 1977! now, granted, there were the times for court's pregnancies and either player being out due to injury, and of course there were great players other then them during this era, but still these 2 are the greatest of their time (add bueno in her prime if you like as well) and yet they didnt play that much against each other.
They played each other 34 times in singles from 1962 through the end of their careers. Their last match was in 1973. Court finished with a 21-13 edge. That averages to about 3 matches per year.
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