Helen Wills-Moody vs. Margaret Smith-Court - TennisForum.com
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post #1 of 7 (permalink) Old Jul 10th, 2005, 06:34 AM Thread Starter
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Helen Wills-Moody vs. Margaret Smith-Court

I was going to post this in GM, but my better senses, led me here. LOL!

This was inspired by my little discussion with Volcana in his greatest players since Court thread.

These two are probably the least talked about players out of the ones that won the double-digit slams in singles.

This is something that I've noticed and I wanted to know if anyone else felt the same about this as me.

This discussion is SINGLES tennis only.

Let's look at the raw facts. Helen Wills-Moody won 4 French Championships, 8 Wimbledons and 7 US Championships through the 1920's-30's.

Margaret Court won 11 Australians, 5 French, 3 Wimbledons and 5 US titles through the 1960's-70's.

Now here's the problem I have. Why was Helen able to win more at Wimbledon than at her own home slam?

And why Margaret win almost 4 times the amount of Wimbledons at her own home slam?

I just think that looking at the break-up of the slams, Wills has been the much more impressive.

Yes Margaret won 6 slams in a row but she competed in all slams. Margaret won 5 more slams than Helen but she competed and won a heck of a lot of slams in Australia.

If you only look at the French/Wimbledon/US total. Helen wins by 19-13.

If you look at the French/Wimbledon total. Helen wins by 12-8.

The only reason why Helen doesn't have the records that Court has is because she never went down to Australia.

That was her weakest link.

Whereas, Court, for sure, she made her trips to Wimbledon. Heck, she even won more in the US, which is farther from Australia than UK. So why wasn't she able to back herself up in Wimbledon?

What made Wills travel across the Atlantic to win MORE Wimbledons than even her own national championships?

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post #2 of 7 (permalink) Old Jul 10th, 2005, 08:15 AM
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First of all lets talk about Wills-Moody. She would have competed more at the US Championships if she wasnt injured or unavailable. If she competed at Wimbledon in one year she usually then returned home to the US and then went to Los Angeles via New York. She then decided if she was going to make the journey back to New York to compete. As she had other commitments such as her education and her marriage she sometimes didnt go to play the US Champs even though she was fit to play. Lets look at her year by year starting with 1922, the first year she played the US Champs

1922 Runner-up
1923 Won
1924 Won
1925 Won
1926 Injured
1927 Won
1928 Won
1929 Won
1930 Decided not to make trip to defend title
1931 Won
1932 Stayed in Europe during Autumn and played there
1933 Runner-up
1934 Injured
1935 Decided not to play after European tour
1936 Was semi-retired from singles
1937 Was semi-retired from singles
1938 Decided not to play after European tour

So she could have played 6 other US Championships but decided not to enter. She won 8 of the 9 (1 time she withdrew) times she entered Wimbledon so really in 16 years of championship play she didnt play there more often than at the US Championships (won 7 of 9 played).

Throughout the years Smith-Courts record at Wimbledon has been debated about and people believe that she found the most important tournament in the world too much and buckled under the pressure. Lets go through year by year what Smith-Court did at Wimbledon starting with 1961 during her first tour.

1961 QF (lost to Lost Truman 3-6 6-3 9-7 during her first season abroad and didnt have top class experience needed to win)
1962 2R (lost to Lost Moffitt King 16 63 75 as number one seed but during a year where she broke from the official Australian touring group and felt the pressure from all angles)
1963 WON
1964 Runner-Up (Lost Bueno 6-4 7-9 6-3)
1965 WON
1966 Semi-final (Lost King 63 63 and was at this stage of the career bored and decided to retire a month later)
1967 Officially retired
1968 QF (lost to Judy TEGART 46 86 61. First Wimbledon back since returning to competition. Even if she got past Tegart who was playing well wouldnt have defeated King)
1969 SF (Lost Jones 6-1 4-6 6-3 in a match that people believed Court should have won but Jones was playing very well. Court dominated the year everywhere else)
1970 WON
1971 RU (Lost Goolagong 64 61, a match which Goolagong was playing very well but Smith really should have won. She discovered that she was pregnant soon after)
1972 Did not enter because of recent birth of child.
1973 SF (Lost Chris EVERT 61 16 61 after dominating the first half of the year and Evert on grass before this meeting)
1975 SF (Lost Evonne CAWLEY 64 64. By now what not as dominate and Cawley was in peak of career.)

From her record I believe that she should have done better in 4 years (1962, 1969, 1971 and 1973) and therefore should have won more Wimbledon titles. Court didnt win more Wimbledons because either the opponent she played in those years was better than Court or Court didnt play her best because of the pressure. We can only speculate. Also she won more Australian titles because in most years the quality of the field wasnt the best.
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post #3 of 7 (permalink) Old Jul 10th, 2005, 11:15 AM
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I feel that Madge does not entirely deserve that "buckles under pressure at Wimbledon" label. To me it is due to those two very tight matches she lost in 61 (having led 4-1 and held match points on two occasions) & 62 ( having led 5-2 final set).

Bueno, Jones, King, Evert and Goolagong were all top-flight opposition and while Madge may have been the favourite in many of those encounters, these women did beat her elsewhere in other important matches. Tegart is the exception to this but her run in 68 is a bit reminiscent of those of Garrison in 90, Morozova in 74, etc: she was on a roll, methinks.

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post #4 of 7 (permalink) Old Jul 11th, 2005, 05:43 AM
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If you compare Helen Wills record with any of the modern legends I am afraid that most of the modern legends records will pale in comparison. After all, Wills only lost a handful of matches in her career.

There are far too many factors involved that do not make it plausible to compare the records of players of different generations. Better to just compare apples with apples. And in that regard we can say that Wills was up there with Lenglen as the best in her generation. And Court is there with Evert as the best of the post 1960 wooden racket generation. Graf and Navratilova are the best of the modern racket generation. Why we have the need to compare and tear records apart is merely an ego trap. I would prefer we take the high road and celebrate all the achievements of our legends without having to tear them apart and denigrate them.
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post #5 of 7 (permalink) Old Jul 13th, 2005, 10:11 PM
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Originally Posted by AndrewTas
...she sometimes didnt go to play the US Champs even though she was fit to play...

1932 Stayed in Europe during Autumn and played there
1933 Runner-up
1934 Injured
1935 Decided not to play after European tour
1936 Was semi-retired from singles
1937 Was semi-retired from singles
1938 Decided not to play after European tour

So she could have played 6 other US Championships but decided not to enter.
There was also much speculation that Wills (like a few proud champions after her) was actively avoiding the onslaughts of Helen Jacobs and Alice Marble toward the end of her career. That's why I so admire Margaret Court and Steffi Graf- throughout their careers, they WANTED to get at each and every challenge, to the point where the person on the other side of the net didn't matter- it was the personal challenge.

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post #6 of 7 (permalink) Old Jul 14th, 2005, 12:41 AM
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Hello there Sam and Roan-good to hear from you both

Posted by SamL
What made Wills travel across the Atlantic to win MORE Wimbledons than even her own national championships?
Below are my thoughts:

After her 1933 fiasco at Forest Hills Helen was determined never to go back. Going to F. Hills would have brought back a ton of bad memories and media coverage. At the same time she had to pay lip service to the idea of going to Forest Hills because the USLTA funded her trips, hence her announcements she would play, only to cancel.

The other factors before 1933 would be

1. Time: Wimbledon ended early in July and in Wills day Forest Hills was in August. That sounds like a long gap, but Helen had to cross the Atlantic by ocean liner, which usually took days. Long ocean voyages were the rule until the 1940's, which partly explains why Forest Hills didn't have a truly international field until 1937.

2. Relative importance. Forest Hills was probably the weakest of the "Big 3" in Helen's day. The ONLY reason it became a major event was because Helen Wills and Bill tilden established American tennis supremacy ---by winning Wimbledon!
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post #7 of 7 (permalink) Old Jul 14th, 2005, 12:51 AM
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Regards a Court-Wills matchup-wouldn't it be a thrill to see them go up against each other? I'd bet Mags never had to face the raw hitting power of Wills from the baseline, while Helen never had to face a serve and volleyer of Court's caliber.

Sounds like a smorgasbord of variety!

Sam and Tennisvideos-remember Helen's "Big 3" stat next time Calimero tries the "Court's Aussies don't count" routine. Fair's fair then-take away Graf's 4 Aussies and her "Big 3" total comes out to 18-one below Helen!

Either method puts Steffi at #2 overall.
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