Almost immediately the new muscle made points. In 1960, at the age of 17, Margaret won the Australian championship, defeating Brazil's Maria Bueno in the finals. She was the youngest girl ever to win that title, and it was merely the first of seven consecutive Aussie championships. During those years she also added two French, two Wimbledon and two Forest Hills titles. Then, at the end of 1966, she got fed up and retired.
"I just got tired of traveling, of packing and unpacking suitcases, of seeing tennis balls all the time," she says. "I'd won everything, and I was getting bored. I wasn't able to give my best."
Not being able to give her best was a cardinal sin to Margaret. For the next few months she was visible behind two giant portholes cut into the brick front of a boutique—it was called The Peephole—that she had opened with a friend in a middle-class suburb of Perth. Margaret's career at The Peephole lasted not long beyond October 1967 when she married a Perth wool broker and champion yachtsman named Barry Court. Her retirement from tennis lasted only a few months longer.
Court, a tall, assured man a year older than Margaret, claims some of the credit for getting his wife back into the world tennis picture. "I'd traveled around Australia," Barry says, "but I'd never been out of it. I talked about how I would like to see the world, and the next thing I knew Margaret was back on the tour."
Another reason for her return was that Margaret had begun playing friendly matches with some of her old touring buddies. Despite not having touched hand to handle for 16 months, she found she could still beat them. The yen to play more seriously returned.
"The challenge is still there," says Margaret, "and traveling is so much more fun with Barry. 1 am more relaxed and I am playing better. I enjoy it more, too, and I've actually found it a lot easier to play well. It's all the experience adding up, I guess. I've learned so much, and my thinking about how to play the game has improved a great deal."
With Billie Jean King recuperating from knee surgery and England's Ann Jones, the 1969 Wimbledon champion, choosing not to play the big tournaments this year, Margaret seemed to have an almost clear field for her Grand Slam bid as the rest of the tennis world gathered last week at Forest Hills. The only thing that might possibly cause a bad stumble would be the pressure of the task; Mrs. Court can be highly nervous.
How the pressure might affect her was a source of some disagreement. "It should help me," said Margaret. "It will just make me try harder."
Not so, says one of her challengers. "The pressure of going for a Grand Slam should hurt Margaret," declared the sprightly, pixie-faced Aussie, Kerry Melville, who has lost four finals matches to Mrs. Court in tournaments this year and beaten her only once in eight meetings. "With someone like Billie Jean the pressure would be an advantage. Billie Jean really would bear down and try harder. I think Margaret is probably going to win here at Forest Hills, but her nerves are her only weak point. You can't outhit her, you can't beat her staying back at the baseline, and she's almost impossible to pass at the net. I've tried every way to beat her, and the thing that works best is to throw everything into the first few games, try to stay with her, to win early. Put her under pressure like that and she gets rattled. You can beat her. But let her win a couple of games right off and its almost hopeless. When she gets confident Margaret is just about unbeatable."
As the week ended Margaret Court was at her confident best. With two down and only four mere mortals to go, the Grand Slam seemed only a couple of smashes away.