sport news OLIVER HOLT: Not even Margaret Court's tainted legacy can stop her being the ... trends now

sport news OLIVER HOLT: Not even Margaret Court's tainted legacy can stop her being the ... trends now
sport news OLIVER HOLT: Not even Margaret Court's tainted legacy can stop her being the ... trends now

sport news OLIVER HOLT: Not even Margaret Court's tainted legacy can stop her being the ... trends now

It is nearly five years since I went to visit Margaret Court at the Victory Life Centre she founded in Perth, Western Australia

For half an hour, I listened to Pastor Margaret preach to her adoring congregation and later she talked to me about prayer, Christianity, her attitude to same-sex marriage and three S-words: scriptures, sin and Serena.

It was December 2017 and Serena Williams, who had nearly died in childbirth earlier in the year, was expected to compete in the Australian Open the following month, with the aim of drawing level with Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles. 

Serena Williams is still chasing down the record of 24 Grand Slam women's singles titles

Serena Williams is still chasing down the record of 24 Grand Slam women's singles titles

Many already regarded Williams as the greatest women’s player of all time anyway and the view was that another triumph for her in Melbourne would confirm it.

Williams did not play in Melbourne that year in the end but Court, who won 62 Grand Slam titles in all, including multiple victories in ladies’ doubles and mixed doubles, gave the impression that she did not relish being written out of the record books. 

She was not particularly gracious about Williams’ quest. ‘I don’t lose any sleep over her chasing my records,’ she said. ‘I don’t think anybody will break the 62, but the 24 will probably go.’

As it happens, the 24 probably won’t go. Not in the women’s game anyway. Not for a while. 

When Williams played her first singles match for a year, at Wimbledon last week, she was beaten in three sets in the first round by Harmony Tan, a French player ranked 115 in the world. 

Williams was beaten in three sets in the first round at Wimbledon by Harmony Tan (pictured)

Williams was beaten in three sets in the first round at Wimbledon by Harmony Tan (pictured)

It was a compelling, rollercoaster of a match but Williams came up short.

Afterwards, she did not say whether she would play Wimbledon again. She did suggest she would like to play the US Open this summer but the days have gone when she was so dominant that, when she turned up to a tournament, it was expected she would win. 

She is 40 now. She’s a mum and a businesswoman, a campaigner, an activist, an icon. The game has moved on without her and she has moved on without the game.

Even with a competitor as fearsome as Williams, it is fairly safe to say that she will never win No24. That time has passed.

Ash Barty may have retired unexpectedly last year but there is too much talent out there to give Williams much of a chance of one last hurrah.

And because her defeat by Tan came close to drawing a line under her top-line career in the sport, it reopened the debate about where she sits in the pantheon. 

The greatest ever in the women’s game? Or the greatest ever in the game altogether? Williams has, after all, won more Grand Slam singles titles than any of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. 

Williams has won more Grand Slam singles titles than any of Roger Federer (pictured, left), Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic (pictured, right)

Williams has won more Grand Slam singles titles than any of Roger Federer (pictured, left), Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic (pictured,

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