Sydney, Jan. 30 (ANI): All time tennis greats gathered at Melbourne Park to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Australian legend Margaret Smith Court's extraordinary 1970 calendar-year grand slam.
Her peers agreed that Smith Court was unquestionably the finest player ever, and Billie Jean King and Evonne Goolagong Cawley led the tributes.
"She was such a queen for so many years. I needed all I could get against her. It was very difficult. Let's face it, she won more grand slams than any other player - male or female - and I think it's fantastic you're honouring her today," King said.
In addition to her 24 grand slam singles titles - including a staggering 11 Australian Opens - Smith Court also accrued 38 women's and mixed doubles crowns and was ranked world No.1 for seven years in the 60s and 70s.
The Albury-born star is also the only player to have racked up a grand slam in doubles as well as singles.
Goolagong Cawley, who like Smith Court also famously won Wimbledon as a mother, credited her revered compatriot as the inspiration behind her own seven grand slam successes.
"I'm just so glad that Margaret was around. She was a person who pushed me all the way. She inspired me to keep going and I just wanted to play like her," Cawley said.
Smith Court said she sensed 1970 was going to be a special year.
"There was something about that year. I'd gone so close - two other times I'd won three out of four, but that year somehow I just knew I had a chance of winning the grand slam," she said.
After receiving an umbrella for winning the 1970 Australian Open and then adding the French Open trophy to her collection, an ankle injury threatened to end the dream at Wimbledon.
But Smith Court bravely ground out a 14-12 11-9 victory over King in the longest-ever women's final at the All England Club. (ANI)