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The Independent Online
Still seen by many as the finest female tennis player of all time, the former Margaret Smith began her record haul of 62 grand slam titles at the Australian championships of 1960, winning the first of her 24 singles titles. Three times Wimbledon champion, she retired in 1977.

She became ill two years after leaving the circuit, trained for the ministry and was ordained in 1991, establishing the touring Margaret Court Ministries and founding her own church, the Victory Life Centre.

"I became a Born-Again Christian in 1972, when I was still world No 1," she said. "In 1979 I was diagnosed as having a torn heart valve and told I would need medication for life. It was at that time I was introduced to healing through faith. I attended bible college and the scriptures became my medicine. I have not needed drugs for 12 years."

She plays twice a week but attends tournaments only when invited. "When I do, sometimes I look back and wonder if I did all that," she said. Now 53, married since 1967 and a mother of four, she and husband Barry live in Perth, where they have a city home and a 5,000-acre farm. Her brother- in-law is the Premier of Western Australia.