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Mag By Craig Gabriel

THE *US OPEN, SERENA AND MARGARET
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THE *US OPEN, SERENA AND MARGARET

The US Open is around the corner and it will be a major like no other up to now. It could almost be like a ghost ship in the night. There will be no crowds, players are limited to one other person with them on-site, outside courts will be with a chair umpire and electronic lines, the field of players is depleted, ball kids (in the case of the US Open ball adults) will wear masks and not handle a player’s towel and so the variations continue.

There will be no player embraces or hand shaking at the end of a match. As tennis has seen at the couple of tournaments played so far, the players will touch racquets at the end of a match. And they will be tested about three times each week with temperature checks every day. And so it goes on.

That’s sadly the state of play. But it’s all about the players and who is going to be there and who is not going to be there. The US Open has attracted plenty of discussion about being referred to as the US Asterisk Open. That a proviso is required to say this US Open is not the same as those that have gone before and whoever wins has done it without every serious contender playing, is pure misguidedness.

The debate on such a situation is genuine nonsense. No tournament, especially a major, should have an asterisk alongside its title. 

To be honest, I am so fed up of these discussions and so often such suggestions have come from people who feel they know so much about the sport but in fact understand very little. They talk loud and people with an interest in tennis then think these so-called commentators are the doyens of the sport. Wrong!

The discussion regarding asterisks came about because of Margaret Court. Serena Williams is one major away from Mrs. Court’s all-time record of 24 singles majors. Due to the fact that these so-called authorities do not like the beliefs and views she stands for, they have decided to denigrate her record from the Australian Championships in the 1960’s. Thy say those records should not be considered. 

Their argument questions whether she would have won eleven Australian titles had the fields been bigger (she did not determine the draw size) and with greater depth. 

You can only play who is on the other side of the net. 

No one was stopping any other players from attending and playing so how can Mrs Court be blamed or see her victories discredited.

Let me be absolutely clear, I disagree with the views and beliefs she upholds but to discredit her record is irresponsible to history. Billie Jean King has said “history matters” and she is regarded as a pillar of tennis history, but not enough has been said by her to quell the discussion.

The ridiculous aspect of all this is that not one other player from the past has been singled out for the asterisk treatment, only Margaret Court. 

No player should be treated in such a manner. Irrespective who they play, they have had to work hard to get to that stage of a tournament and deserve every accolade owed them. 

The question needs to be asked why no other player has been singled out for such a bashing of their record. Should there be an asterisk on the name of Johan Kriek for his two Australian Opens beating Ben Testerman both times? Should there be an asterisk against the name of Sue Barker when she won the French Open because the big names were banned due to their participation in World Team Tennis?

What about Jan Kodes winning Wimbledon over Alex Metrevili in 1973 when the men players boycotted Wimbledon?

Have they looked at the Australian record of the great Roy Emerson and how many he won against what these poor observers of the game would regard as a depleted draw? Or what about Maureen Connolly’s actual Grand Slam? You can’t say it was brimming with depth. And then there was Chris O’Neill, the last local woman to win the Australian Open, 1978, when she beat Barbara Jordan. Should they have an asterisk?

Ah, one other, what about an asterisk against Roger Federer’s name for his Roland Garros victory? Why? Oh, because he didn’t beat Rafa Nadal in the final who he had never beaten at the French Open. 

It is a stupid argument. Not one of these players deserves or requires an asterisk. They won their titles and achieved their glory in legitimate fashion and those achievements must be applauded.

If Serena Williams wins the US Open it will be a tremendous achievement. There should be no asterisk against her name despite there being only four of the top ten in the draw. She will have finally equalled Margaret Court but unless she passes that record, she will not stand alone and every one of the misguided critics must, no questions asked, no caveats made, acknowledge them equally.

For a long time now the ITF, the WTA and the Tennis Hall of Fame should have been putting their feet down and making it damn clear to all these people who have tried to rewrite history, that Margaret Court’s record is unquestionable.