Tennis fans had yet to shed their party clothes from the Serena Williams farewell fest when Margaret Court crashed the party and released a funk that got folks up in arms.
In an interview with the Daily Telegraph’s Oliver Brown published on Monday, Court said of Serena, “I’ve admired her as a player … But I don’t think she has ever admired me.” Has Court called Serena to express this admiration? If not, why speculate what Serena may or may not feel? In the interview Court – a 24-time grand slam singles champion – also raises her issues with Serena’s sportsmanship, abilities after giving birth and the comforts of life on tour in the modern era.
Typical Miss Ann.
If you’ve never heard of Miss Ann, you’re probably not an African American, especially not one from the South. Miss Ann is not a Karen, the white woman who calls the cops on black folks for breathing in public. No. Miss Ann is a phrase African Americans use for someone, usually a white woman, who strolls through life thinking she’s better than those she deems beneath her. Miss Ann thinks she’s right and you’re wrong and probably going to hell for disagreeing with her.
African Americans grow up hearing mama, grandma or an auntie talk about Miss Ann. They announce their arrival with a side-eye, uttering beneath their breath, “Hm. Here come Miss Ann.”
Miss Ann ain’t got nothing nice to say, even when she’s being nice. So when Court said she’s always admired Serena but followed that with a laundry list of grievances – “Hm. Here come Miss Ann.”
There are legitimate arguments about the greatest tennis player of all time. Would Steffi Graf have 22 majors if one of her lunatic fans hadn’t stabbed Monica Seles? Do Martina Navratilova’s double titles deserve more weight? How do we measure pre-Open era titles?
Court could make a case for herself as the greatest without taking shots at Serena – there’s no doubt she was a brilliant player. Instead, with a generous assist from Brown, Court attacked Serena’s sportsmanship and implies that the 23-time grand slam champion – second on the all-time list behind Court – isn’t a fitting role model. Miss Ann sought to remind everyone of Serena’s shortcomings.
Brown mentions the 2009 US Open when Serena threatened a line judge and the 2011 US Open when Serena had words for the chair umpire during a changeover. However, he leaves out the time Court seemingly praised apartheid-era South Africa in 1970 (“South Africans have this thing better organized than any other country, particularly America,” she said. “I love South Africa. I’ll go back there any time.”)
Last year, Serena’s former coach Patrick Mouratoglou told Eurosport, “Margaret Court was playing at a time when three-quarters didn’t even go to Australia [for the Australian Open], where tennis was an amateur sport when the draws were 16 players … I don’t mean to disrespect Margaret Court, but it’s another era. So, yes, it would be better if Serena broke her record, but if she doesn’t, she will still be the greatest player of all time.”
It’s seems clear what is behind Court’s criticism of Serena. Mouratoglou’s assessment eats at her. It’s as though she can’t stand that people worldwide – including the likes of John McEnroe, Billie Jean King and Roger Federer – consider Serena the greatest. Court appears to lament that people don’t celebrate her. Where’s her party?
“I was at Wimbledon this year and nobody even spoke to me,” Court told Brown. “I think a lot of it is because of being a minister and making a stand for my beliefs. I have had a lot of bullying. But we should be able to say what we believe. I’ve got nothing against anyone.”
Court is against same-sex marriage. She believes being gay is a sin, an abomination. Other than that, Miss Ann ain’t got nothing against anybody.
Well, Miss Ann, nobody has an issue with you being a Christian. Professional athletes profess their faith all the time. “First, I’d like to thank God,” is the preamble to many victory speeches, and Serena has talked about her own faith.
The issue is Court’s hostility toward anyone who does not embrace her brand of Christianity. Court is firm in her beliefs but is bothered that nobody talked to her at Wimbledon and that people in Australia want her name removed from Margaret Court Arena. She feels like she’s being bullied by the intolerant.
Those people aren’t intolerant. They’re tired. They’ve heard Court’s message for years and know she won’t change. Heck, she said she won’t change.
That’s why when most people read Court’s remarks, they were more annoyed than upset. They knew what to expect.
“Hmm. Here come Miss Ann.”