Beyond the 'Court': Tennis Legend Shares Christ

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The first Australian woman to win the Wimbledon tournament, the most prestigious event in professional tennis, is now devoting her time to sharing the love of Jesus Christ.

Margaret Smith Court is one of only five tennis players to win the Grand Slam -- sweeping all four majors - the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, and the U.S. Open in a single calendar year. She accomplished that goal in 1970.

"And then everybody said, 'Well, she's finished.' And then I had a baby and decided I had another goal," Court told CBN News. "I hadn't finished. I wanted to be the first mom to be number one in the world. I achieved that goal also."

"Her nickname was 'The Arm,'" said Mark Stenning, the CEO of the International Tennis Hall of Fame. "She was just shy of six feet tall, and she could get to just about any ball because she was in incredible shape, as most of the Aussies were of that era. And she had a tremendous wingspan."

Altogether, Court won a record 62 majors during the 1960s and 1970s in singles, doubles, and mixed doubles -- more than any male or female player in the history of the game.

"Life on the tennis scene was exciting back in those times," Court recalled. "I loved it. I always knew it was a gift from God as a little girl."

Tennis Magazine named the word-class athlete one of the 20 greatest players of the 20th century.

"When I think of Margaret Court, I think of one word, and that's the longevity and the focus that we talked about," Stenning shared. "To be ranked number one in the world for seven times in a decade -- unheard of. She is a true Hall of Famer."

Her Journey to Faith

Court's incredible achievements on the tennis court led to her induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1979. However, she said her faith in Jesus Christ means more than any tennis accolade.

"I think any top player or any sporting person - they know there's something beyond what they're doing," Court said.

Court said before becoming a Christian, she still went to church every Sunday and would pray, but she thought of God as being distant - somewhere in the sky. It was at a church in France, where she realized there had to be more.

"They were speaking in Latin and French, and I just sort of said, 'God,' -- I didn't understand what they were saying -- I said, 'I want to know you in a deeper way,'" Court explained.

God answered her prayer. The year after winning the Grand Slam and after two friends witnessed to her -- one in America and the other in Australia -- Court accepted Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior.

"I went up to give my heart to Christ, and I got born again, got Spirit-filled; the power of God hit me, and I had a real experience," Court shared. "I never lost that."

'You Can Know Him Too'

Court wanted those in the tennis world to have the same experience.

"I said, 'I know if I died, I'd go home to be with the Lord,' and I'd say to them, 'Would you like that, too?'" she explained. "'You can have it,' and I'd get that little piece of paper out, and I'd say, 'Say this prayer after me 'cause I want to see you in Heaven. You can be there with me.' And it was so simple. There was hundreds of people, through that simplicity, (that) gave their hearts to Christ."

CBN News spoke with Court, now 67, in Tulsa, Okla. at Empowered 21: The Global Congress on Holy Spirit Empowerment in the 21st Century, where she was one of the speakers.

"I've always known the power of God in my life, and the heavenly language, and it just changed my life. And I think in ministry, particularly, there's a very strong healing anointing in our ministry," Court said.

When she's not overseas, Court serves as the senior minister at Victory Life Centre in Perth, which is in western Australia.

Greatest Challenge Yet

Court views this chapter in her life as her greatest challenge yet, even over her years at the top of the pro-tennis circuit. She wants to be remembered more for how she helped people to know who they are in Christ.

"You see young people coming in, and their lives are all messed up, and then you see the Word of God and the Spirit of God changing their life," Court said. "To me that's much more exciting than winning Wimbledon."

Court is a woman who knows true victory isn't achieved at the end of a match, but at the end of life, when Jesus could tell her, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."

Original broadcast June 24, 2010.

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Mark Martin

Mark Martin

CBN News Reporter

Mark Martin is a reporter and anchor at CBN News, covering various issues from military matters to alternative fuels. Mark has reported internationally in the Middle East and traveled to Bahrain to cover stories on the U.S.S. Dwight D. Eisenhower. Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkMartinCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/MarkMartinCBN.