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laschutz
Nov 10th, 2010, 04:02 PM
hi everyone! after watching my 1982 wimbledon semi video of billie jean vs chrissie at the age of 38, it got me thinking about billie jean's long longevity to compete at the age of 38 and even the next year at the age of 39! against the best in the world and why margaret court did not do likewise?

the obvious answer i guess is that margaret had children and in terms of her physical self this weakened margaret? for example, towards the end of margaret's career she was racked with injuries, usually leg or ankle injuries, but then again, wasn't billie jean the queen of leg injuries and leg surgeries and yet she could still come back from them year after year?

also, even though court did have children, wasn't she always known as the strongest and fittest player of her time, more than billie jean, so if that is the case why could she not come back even after after children and be able to compete at the very top level until her mid to late 30's like billie jean?

perhaps margaret had too much pride and recognition of her long career and her records and what not, to come back as a 35,36,37,38 year old and a constant loser to evert, martina, and so on. she wouldn't be comfortable as an over the hill also ran? for margaret it was number 1 or nothing?

then perhaps margaret didn't need the money or the fame, was tired of it all, and wanted to spend more time with her husband and children and off the tour and the road?

so perhaps it was a combination of all these things that margaret didn't or couldn't play and compete well as old as billie jean did in 1982 and 1983 as a 38 and 39 year old.

however, there is a small snag i think in billie being able to compete with the best in 1982 and 1983.

that being her best results were on grass. she lost to sue mascarin! sue mascarin in straight sets on the hard courts of the u.s. open just a few months after defeating austin and giving evert a scare at wimbledon? even that was an anamoly since evert crushed king 2 and 2 later in 1982 on grass at the aussie and then a couple months later 1 and 1 indoors on carpet in early 1983.

billie jean did beat jaeger in 3 sets indoors before getting walloped by evert, so billie had great results occassionally during this period namely on grass and indoor courts that suited her game, especially at her age of 38/39. she had so much variety and was a queen of strategy she used her wiles and experienced to still win.

there is another comparison with margaret in this context. margaret while perhaps slightly overall better than billie and stronger, more powerful and faster than billie, by her mid 30's margaret knew she couldn't win this way anymore. and even though she had all these advantages over billie jean, billie jean i think was margaret's superior in variety and strategy, and it was these gifts that allowed billie jean to compete at her advanced age, whereas margaret could not?

king one of the greatest tacticians of all time used everything she had not only her physical skills but her mental strategic skills, when the physical self was not as good, the mental side was still at it's peak, this explains how she was able to beat and frustate opponents half her age. i don't think margaret even though she was a more all around player and like i said stronger, faster and more powerful than billie jean, i don't think margaret had or could use the mental side ( which was always her weakest part anyway) and use strategy to beat the players that billie jean could and did so late in her career.

i don't see a margaret being able to overpower the top players anymore nor can i envision margaret using tactics and wiles and it has to be said " the mind games" that billie used in her later years to win.

comments everyone! have a great day!

Jem
Nov 10th, 2010, 05:21 PM
I suspect the main thing for Court was that she opted for a different life. She was well into her 30s with a child (and a miscarriage, I believe) when she retired -- pregnant -- in 1977. While she came back strong in 1973 after her first pregnancy, I suspect coming back from a second one in her mid-30s would have been an improbable physical challenge -- certainly for the era in which she played.
As you note below, I also suspect Court would not have been content to know she might could just compete -- but not actually beat -- the top players on a consistent basis. She always struck me as enormously proud of her achievements and I don't think she would have appreciated seeing her reputation tarnished. You have to remember -- she won at an amazingly high level throughout her career. She didn't even like to lose consecutive matches to the very top players, so imagine how difficult it would have been to tolerate the increasing losses to players she would have routinely schooled at anytime during her heyday.
At one point, in either the late 70s or early 80s, I remember reading that she mulled over the idea of returning to the tour to play doubles only -- not sure what was the motivating force behind those thoughts but she opted not to.

It's a wild guess, but I would suspect Court could have competed well had she opted to play later. She was, after all, getting to the finals of VS tournaments in her 30s. The wildcard is the pregnancies. Not sure how she would have recovered. BJK had injuries to contend with, but never had to recover from giving birth. Very different things from what I've been told!

Rollo
Nov 10th, 2010, 05:35 PM
Credit to Billie Jean for soldiering on to give many us memorable matches. I only saw her live from 1977 on, when she was far from best. She had 3 things in aces and spades that allowed her to compete IMO

1. a ton of grit and determination

2. an aura of being who she was (Martina admits to being psyched out by
King on more than one occasion and Evert refused to look Billie Jean in the
face when playing her)

3. Tactical brilliance. As Nancy Ricney has noted, King could always "junk the
ball around" and get players out a comfort zone.

It's too bad for King that she retired from singles for the first time in 1975. She only played doubles for much and 1976 and was brilliant. Who knows if she could have nabbed another Wimbledon in 1976?

matthirst2000
Nov 10th, 2010, 08:18 PM
I read somewhere that Billie Jean played on into the 1980s as she needed the prize money as the Marilyn Barnett case cost her in legal fees and lost endorsements.Certainly in 1977 she was capable of beating everybody except for Evert.Even after that she continued to beat on occoision the best(Navratilova,Austin,Cawley).Curious though that she only took 2 sets off Chris(both at Wimbledon)in all their matches after 1975.I was a big BJK fan however and remember first whaching her on tv for Wimbledon 1973 so I greatly enjoyed the later matches even if she was past her very best.Does any one know why she stopped playing singles after Wimbledon 1975.Was it a knee injury? Switch to clay at Forest Hills? Or just ready to "retire" at the top?

Jem
Nov 11th, 2010, 01:58 PM
Does any one know why she stopped playing singles after Wimbledon 1975.Was it a knee injury? Switch to clay at Forest Hills? Or just ready to "retire" at the top?

At the time, she indicated she wanted to go out on "top" -- though she was no longer No. 1 -- and her knees were troubling her some as well. I'm pretty sure that she announced prior to Wimbledon that it would be her last tournament, but hopefully someone can confirm that.

daze11
Nov 11th, 2010, 04:22 PM
It's also pretty evident that BJK has in her deepest self a love & commitment to the game and just to the merits of competition that very few possess, based on her being so visibly involved all these years with tennis. Some of that is a love of the limelight & attention & praise, but I meanwhile have no doubt she really does adore this sport as close to a religion as any.

Margaret meanwhile found a different religion literally, and has said much in regard to where she places her highly acclaimed tennis accomplishments versus the charity & missionary work she does for her church. So my take is that she lost interest in 'the merits of competition' as much as finding a higher calling than slapping a ball around a court. Maybe we should say Margaret Court found a new playing surface.

I like both player's choices.

Rollo
Nov 11th, 2010, 05:38 PM
At the time, she indicated she wanted to go out on "top" -- though she was no longer No. 1 -- and her knees were troubling her some as well. I'm pretty sure that she announced prior to Wimbledon that it would be her last tournament, but hopefully someone can confirm that.

Hi Jem:wavey:

I can confirm that King did indeed announce her retirement during Wimbledon in 1975-not sure of the exact date (I'll find out) but it was before her semi with Chris. Billie Jean cited her dodgy knees and lack of motivation. Often factors would include her growing business interests (she was still cashing in from the Riggs match-and who can blame her) such as WTT. In addition she founded a Women Sports magazine.

austinrunner
Nov 11th, 2010, 08:02 PM
An August 31, 1975, newspaper interview with Billie Jean King just after she had won her first round US Open doubles match:

"'I'm burned out, my knees are shot, I keep running out of goals,' Billie Jean said Saturday, insisting her retirement from tennis singles competition is final. 'There is no chance whatever I will change my mind,' she added. 'And I have no regrets. ... Playing doubles was fun, no pressure. I enjoyed it,' she said. Billie Jean said she made up her mind when she shook hands with Evonne Goolagong after winning the U.S. Open women's title last year for the fourth time that she would not be back as a singles player. She decided then, she said, to shoot for her sixth Wimbledon championship - a goal she achieved - and then call it quits. 'There is nothing left for me to win,' she said. 'Physically, I am not up to it. My knees hurt. I am an emotional player. I need motivation, and the motivation is gone.' Ms. King, who publishes a women's magazine and has a lucrative television contract, said she went to the Westchester Country Club last week just to see if she regretted her decision. 'I didn't miss it at all,' she added. ... Some critics had said Billie Jean stayed out of the tournament because she didn't like the clay surface. 'Let them think what they want,' she retorted. She said she wanted to go out on top. 'I hated to see athletes hang on past their prime,' she said. 'I determined it was not for me.' She said she is happy to pass her mantle on to Chris Evert, who she says can take up her role both in administration and competition. 'I don't see anyone beating her,' she said. Some reporters at a press conference showed cynicism at Billie Jean's insistence that she would never try a comeback. 'Frank Sinatra is always retiring and then coming back,' one reporter suggested. 'Yeah,' quipped Billie Jean, 'but you don't sing with your knees.'"

Associated Press story in the Appleton [Wisconsin] Post-Crescent, August 31, 1975, page 32.

matthirst2000
Nov 11th, 2010, 09:35 PM
What an interesting article.Do you know why she did make a comeback in 1977? She was incidentally pretty near the top in July 75 as reigning US Open & Wimbledon champion.

daze11
Nov 11th, 2010, 10:16 PM
What an interesting article.Do you know why she did make a comeback in 1977? She was incidentally pretty near the top in July 75 as reigning US Open & Wimbledon champion.I actually have a BJK quote to answer that question...

"Looking back," King said, "I wasted 1976. After watching Chris Evert and Evonne [Goolagong] Cawley play the final at Wimbledon I asked myself what I was doing. So, despite my age and the operations, the Old Lady came back...."

Rollo
Nov 12th, 2010, 01:39 AM
I actually have a BJK quote to answer that question...

"Looking back," King said, "I wasted 1976. After watching Chris Evert and Evonne [Goolagong] Cawley play the final at Wimbledon I asked myself what I was doing. So, despite my age and the operations, the Old Lady came back...."

I tend to agree with BJK on this. Clearly she usually had the upper hand with Goolagong overall. And when she retired for the first time in 1975 King had never lost to Evert on grass. You have to think she would have had a good shot at winning it again in 1976. She gave us glorious moments after returning in 1977 but was not a serious threat to win a grand slam again.

austinrunner
Nov 12th, 2010, 07:08 AM
King was still playing doubles regularly in 1976 and was more than holding her own with the top players in practice. What sealed her decision to come back was her impromptu participation in the August 1976 Federation Cup. With no preparation, she won 5 matches without losing a set, including a 7-6(4), 6-4 defeat of Evonne Goolagong Cawley in the final.

But King was still plagued by a right knee problem that necessitated major surgery on November 9, 1976. When her 6-month rehab was over, she was clearly the second best player in the world in the second half of 1977. The Women's Tennis Association (WTA) ranked her second at year end.

Injury struck again in early 1978. This time, it was a very painful heel spur in her left foot that severely limited her mobility. She did not play singles after Wimbledon and had surgery on December 22, 1978, to fix the problem. Nevertheless, she finished the year ranked fifth by the WTA.

She endured another 6-month rehab, returning to the tour just in time for Wimbledon in 1979. Her quarterfinal loss to Tracy Austin there was due to lack of match play and not being fit enough. She was a contender the remainder of the year. Chris Evert demolished her in the US Open semifinals, mainly because King had a very sore neck. But King had 2 wins over Goolagong Cawley and Sylvia Hanika and also defeated Hana Mandlikova, Pam Shriver, Virginia Ruzici, Virginia Wade, Wendy Turnbull, Dianne Fromholtz Balestrat, Greer Stevens, and Bettina Bunge. She was unlucky to lose a third set tiebreaker to Martina Navratilova in Brighton. She again finished the year ranked fifth by the WTA.

The first half of 1980 was also good for King, including a straight set rout of Navratilova in Houston that ended her 28-match winning streak and a straight sets win over Wimbledon champion Goolagong Cawley. King was again unlucky to lose to Navratilova in the Wimbledon quarterfinals, 10-8 in the third set. She finished the year ranked sixth by the WTA.

1981 was a lost year because of the Marilyn Barnett controversy. She played herself back into shape in the winter and spring of 1982, culminating in her Wimbledon quarterfinal upset of Austin and narrow loss to Evert in the semifinals. She played only 4 tournaments the remainder of the year, including a quarterfinal loss to Evert at the Australian Open. She finished the year ranked 14th by the WTA.

She won 2 singles titles in 1983, both on grass, and again reached the Wimbledon semifinals. She ended the year with a second round upset loss to Catherine Tanvier at the Australian Open. She finished the year ranked 13th by the WTA.

She played only one event in 1984, at the unofficial Australian Indoor Championships in Sydney in July. She lost all 3 of her round robin matches there. And that was the end of her singles career.

Rollo
Nov 12th, 2010, 02:34 PM
King was still playing doubles regularly in 1976 and was more than holding her own with the top players in practice. What sealed her decision to come back was her improptu participation in the August 1976 Federation Cup. With no preparation, she won 5 matches without losing a set, including a 7-6(4), 6-4 defeat of Evonne Goolagong Cawley in the final.


King had also stepped in before the Fed Cup to replace Virginia Wade in singles for the New York Sets in World Team Tennis. She won 12 out of 14 singles matches in the weeks leading up to Fed Cup. Her participation in Fed Cup was indeed improptu, as Chris Evert was dropped out due to injury at the last minute. As the captain Billie Jean decided she was fit enough for singles,powering the US to victory.