Liberal MP Peter Collier has told State Parliament Margaret Court’s tennis accomplishments are “vastly superior to Serena Williams” and insists that while the recently retired American dealt with racism, the controversial West Australian also faced hardship because she was “forbidden” from playing at her local club as a child.
In a statement delivered to Parliament shortly before 10pm on Tuesday, Mr Collier launched into a detailed comparison of the on-court achievements of the two women, saying he aimed to “remove the emotion” from debate over which deserved the mantle of greatest tennis player of all time.
He said both Serena and sister Venus – a seven-time grand slam winner – had “done it tough” – but so had Mrs Court.
“(The Williams sisters) faced racism and enormous adversity on multiple occasions,” he said.
“Likewise, Margaret Court’s early years were spent looking at the members-only grass courts of the local tennis club in Albury.
“She was forbidden to play on the courts and would use a piece of cut-down wood to hit tennis balls with half a dozen local boys.
“Margaret’s first racquet was second-hand and was handed down to her from a friend of her mother.
“She left home at the age of 15 to move to Melbourne to pursue her tennis. Both women had to struggle very early in their careers before they went on to establish themselves as champions of tennis.”
Williams retired after exiting the US Open earlier this month having won one 23 grand slams tiles – one fewer than Court’s 24.
“Unfortunately, as a result of the fact that Serena has not matched Margaret’s grand slam singles record, there have been many in the world, particularly in the tennis community from the United States, but also in some of the media, who have worked tirelessly to undermine and diminish the record of a great Australian,” Mr Collier said.
“They bizarrely reflected on some of Margaret’s religious views to suggest that she is not worthy of the title of the greatest tennis player of all time.”
Mrs Court has become a lightning rod for criticism in recent years – including from prominent past and present professional tennis players – over her hardline stance on same-sex marriage.
Mr Collier went on to compare at length the grand slam and overall tennis records of the two women – including singles, doubles and mixed doubles titles – before reflecting on their performances after taking breaks to have children.
“When she came back after the birth of her child, Margaret (aged 30) competed in five grand slam tournaments, of which she won three,” he added.
“While Serena came back after the birth of her child (aged 36) and played in 15 grand slam tournaments but did not win—Margaret wins. She won three but Serena did not win any.”
Mr Collier ended his speech by noting that Mrs Court was a natural left-hander but had played her entire career with her right hand after being forced to switch as a child.
“Imagine how many more titles she would have won,” Mr Collier said.
“She already has an enviable record but nothing like what would have happened if she played with her natural hand.
“My point is that as we look at the records of Margaret Court and Serena Williams, we see that both are extraordinary athletes and tennis players.
“But please park the emotion and look at the facts: at every single level Margaret Court’s record is vastly superior to Serena Williams and she is without a shadow of a doubt the greatest tennis player of all time.”
Mr Collier, a one-time tennis coach, has strong ties to Mrs Court – who is the wife of Barry Court, a former president of the WA Liberal party and brother of former Liberal Premier Richard Court.