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January 23, 2003

Margaret Court

Graeme John

Rod Laver


THE MODERATOR: We'd love to welcome you along for what is a very special announcement this morning, especially those of you bleary-eyed after being here for that remarkable match last night. We're here to announce the recipients of the 2003 Australia Post Legends Award. It's an award that recognizes extraordinary living Australians who made significant contributions to our national identity. The two people we're here to honor today are the latest in a distinguished list of great Australians who have been awarded since the award's inception in 1997. You only have to look at the past winners to realize how important this award is. They include Sir Donald Bradman, six Gold Medal Olympians, Arthur Boyd, the Anzacs, Slim Dusty, and five medical scientists. In recognition of this, they'll both feature on their own postage stamp, a rare honor in this country traditionally bestowed only on ruling monarchs. We're going to meet our distinguished guests in just a moment, but first we'll take a look at a brief video of this year's recipients. (Video is shown.) Ladies and gentlemen, I'm sure you'd agree not only do we have two great Australian tennis icons, two great Australian sporting icons, but, indeed, two icons for this country. Would you please make welcome the Australia Post Australian legends for 2003, Rod Laver and Margaret Court (applause). Rod, Margaret, I'll get you to do the honors and unveil the Australian Legends stamps (applause). Now I'd like to call upon Australia Post Managing Director, Mr. Graeme John, to come forward and make a brief presentation to Rod and Margaret in honor of their achievement.

GRAEME JOHN: On behalf of Australia Post and the people of Australia, Margaret, it gives me excellent pleasure to present you with the first printed stamps recognizing you as the Australia Post legend for 2003. Congratulations, and we're very proud (applause).


THE MODERATOR: I think one for Mr. Laver as well, Graeme.

GRAEME JOHN: Similarly, Rod, it's a great pleasure for me to be able to present to you with the first stamps recognizing your legends series on behalf of the people of Australia and also Australia Post. It's something that we're unbelievably proud to be in a position to be able to recognize your achievements and Margaret's achievements, and it's a wonderful day for Australia. Well done (applause).

ROD LAVER: Thank you.

THE MODERATOR: Margaret, Rod, I'll get you to take a seat. Margaret, first of all, after all of the achievements in your career and one very recently here, having Margaret Court Arena named after you, what sort of a thrill is this for you today?

MARGARET COURT: I think this just tops it off. It's such a great honor. I think, too, Rod and I together, we played around the same time and we trained together, we respect one another, we've been good friends. I think it's just wonderful, a wonderful honor for us at the same time to be on this stamp. And just for our nation, I think it's wonderful.

THE MODERATOR: Rod, I'm sure you'd agree that it would be a great honor if it was just you here today, but to have Margaret here beside you makes it even more so.

ROD LAVER: Very much so. I feel very honored to have a stamp in my honor, but to be linked with Margaret, we've played a lot of tennis around the world, she had some unbelievable wins. So it is an honor that I'll cherish. I've got to thank Australia and Australia Post for doing this. It's something that I think is going to help the game of tennis. Just to be part of it, I feel very honored.

THE MODERATOR: Margaret, with all those great moments in your career, is there one above all others that stands out for you, one of the 11 Australian titles, or just one moment from your career that you really remember with more fondness?

MARGARET COURT: Probably my first Australian. That back then was in Queensland at Milton. Maria Bueno was No. 1 in the world. I was, I guess, a real country kid, only 17 years of age. I wasn't seeded in that tournament. To come through and to beat the No. 1 player in the world at that time, it was like I was a nobody and then all of a sudden I was a somebody. I think probably that's the one of the Australian titles I remember more than any.

THE MODERATOR: We just saw in that video that you were a trailblazer in a lot of ways, not only the first Australian woman to win Wimbledon, but you took the game to another level with your fitness. It's something that's carried on even today.

MARGARET COURT: Well, back then I used to get called the "Aussie Amazon," because no women lifted weights back in those times. I used to train in the men's gym five mornings a week and do a lot of circuit training and run the sand hills at Port Sea and along the Mentone Beach there. I loved that side of it. I think probably if I hadn't played tennis, I would have done track. So the fitness side was easy to me, and I think it probably kept me in the game for about the 15 years that I was in the game. I never had any injuries, and I think it was probably the fitness side that really kept me.

THE MODERATOR: Rod, did you ever think, and do you ever think now that you were born at the wrong time when you look at the prize money some of these guys are earning - Andre, $26 million? I think your career earnings were around about one and a half million. The winner almost gets that here.

ROD LAVER: That's true (laughing). No, I don't have any regrets at all. I think for a long time it was great to be able to play when I did. I think the camaraderie with my opponents, who are probably my best friends today, was something that I feel very honored, to have come along at the time. Looking today at the money that is being played for, certainly you could think, "Well, how would I do?" But it really is a great feeling that tennis has blossomed to where it is today. To see that, I don't know what the first prize is here, but is it a million dollars?

THE MODERATOR: It's over a million Australian dollars.

ROD LAVER: It's pretty incredible that the sponsors have the ability to put these type of prize moneys together. But I'm happy where I came from. I had a good career, a good chance to play around the world for many years. So I'm very happy.

THE MODERATOR: The kid from Rockhampton did okay.

ROD LAVER: Well, if a kid from Rockhampton anybody, any kid in Australia can do it.

THE MODERATOR: Rod, I'll just ask you because a lot of us were here last night and saw that epic match between Andy Roddick and Younes El Aynaoui, did you ever have one as long as that?

ROD LAVER: Well, not as long, no. But the score was about the same. In 1969 I played Tony Roche up in Brisbane. I think the third set went 22-20, and there was a few other advantage sets in that score, too. So just over four hours that particular match took in Brisbane, which it's fairly tropical in November, December so...

THE MODERATOR: Just before I throw it open to any questions from anyone who's in attendance this morning, I'll ask a last one to each of you. Champions are always modest, and you won't sing your own praises, either of you. So I'll get the other to appraise the legend. Margaret, what was great about this man, Rod Laver?

ROD LAVER: Ut-oh (smiling).

MARGARET COURT: Something I always remember about Rod was I remember going up in to the Centre Court at Wimbledon and standing up there in one of those entrances and watching him for a while. It was just awesome. It was one of the years he won the Grand Slam. I just saw him play, and just everything he hit seemed to go for winners or aces. I always look back at that match, I think I look today, and I think if he was playing anybody today, I believe that he would have wiped them. It was just one of those things that was like awesome to see somebody play like that.

THE MODERATOR: The greatest ever?

MARGARET COURT: I believe so, because I always think with the Grand Slam, particularly, to win the four in the one year, it's not an easy thing to do. You've got to have your fitness, your health, your everything, and he won two of them. Nobody's done that.

THE MODERATOR: Rod, can you return the compliment?

ROD LAVER: Well, when someone wins 11 titles in a row here at the Australian, it's pretty incredible to find anything that is not right about Margaret. She's just unbelievable the way she started off, she had mentioned the training that she went through. I remember a lot of the times when we were out practicing when Harry Hopman had the squad of Rosewall and Emerson and Anderson and Stolle. It was something where Hop would come down and say, "Can Margaret play, too?" So Margaret was part of our two-on-one workouts, but she was doing better than we were doing. Her stamina was just incredible. But, no, she's been a great champion and a great ambassador for women's tennis. I think when I look at the way she was playing or remember how she played so many years ago, just thinking that she could - given all the things that today's players have with the racquets and the technology and all that, coaches and, you know, the people - I think that Margaret would stand up very strongly with anybody in today's world. It's great to see she's here with myself. And having a stamp in our honor, it's very dear to me.

THE MODERATOR: Well, we're delighted to have you both here. Ladies and gentlemen, you've got a rare opportunity of two of the greats of the game here together. If there are any questions, feel free.

Q. How do you both feel about the fact that thousands of Australians will be licking the backs of your heads (laughter)?

MARGARET COURT: I just think -- I just pray, I guess, it's a great inspiration for our young today. I think we both had goals, and we achieved that. I think if any young today, they work hard and they seek goals, they can achieve it. They can be the best, whether it's for yourself or for your nation.

ROD LAVER: Well, coming from Rockhampton, you know, not a lot of tennis was played up there, but family played. When you look back at that level and you're thinking these days, and you're having a stamp put out in your honor, it's pretty amazing thinking as a child that this could happen to you. But I think, as Margaret said, you know, if you're dedicated and you put in the effort and it's continuous, win, lose or draw, you keep plugging away, it's amazing what can happen. Margaret and I are true recipients of that situation with having stamps put out in our honor. So I think it helps tennis, I certainly think the exposure that this will bring tennis, you know, around the world, not just here in Australia. Because I think this will be recognized, and maybe it will be something that a lot of people will think of doing in various other countries.

Q. Margaret, you've just come from a tournament early this month in your hometown of Albury, the Margaret Court Cup. How do you see the future of Australian tennis after spending a few days up on the border?

MARGARET COURT: I think in looking at the youngsters at the Ambassadors Cup yesterday, (inaudible), I did the presentation there. There's some good Juniors around. But just like Rod and I, we're both from country towns. I think if you're hungry enough, and if we could do it in our time when it was so difficult and our families had nothing, I mean, there's so much there for young people today. I know there's a lot of other sports today which we didn't have, but the opportunities are there for them. I think, you know, young people have to have goals, look at tournaments and probably not at money. I think a lot of young people look at the money. You become a Grand Slam champion today, and money's a bonus. So if they put the goals in the direction, the right direction, and work hard, they can do it.

Q. If you look at the women's tournament today, who's your favorite?


Q. To win, who is your favorite to win the women's tournament today?

MARGARET COURT: I guess the one I'd like to see win it would be Clijsters. I think she's refreshing. She could do it. But I think she's good for tennis.

Q. Why?

MARGARET COURT: Well, I think she's good all-around. She can volley. I think probably there's only really about four players, five players there, then there's a drop after that. So I think, you know, it's just good for the game, to have that difference and another one coming through to win.

THE MODERATOR: Any further questions, ladies and gentlemen (no response)? Rod, we're not going to let you go without your selection for Sunday. Who's going to be sitting in that chair on Sunday?

ROD LAVER: Well, you know, after last night, having seen - well, not having seen it - but the result with Andy Roddick coming through, he's a great young talent. I think that's something that he and Agassi playing in the final would be something. But in some ways, I still put my money on Andre. Andre Agassi I feel is -- he feels like he's on his last one or two years of playing. I think he wants to go out a winner, and I think his fitness and his ability to play on this particular court is there. So I think I'd pick Andre.

THE MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, I don't think there's anyone in this room who doesn't love sport. To have two of the greats of this country's sporting heritage together here to be honored at the same time is certainly a thrill for me to be here with them, and I'm sure for you all, too. Perhaps the best measure of their greatness is their imagine is on the Australia Post stamps and all of a sudden the stamp goes up 10 percent (laughter). Ladies and gentlemen, could you thank Rod Laver and Margaret Court. Just a reminder to you, there will be an official presentation on Rod Laver Arena at one o'clock this afternoon where there will be further photo opportunities with Rod and Margaret. Thanks for coming along, ladies and gentlemen.

End of FastScripts….

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