Margaret Court reignites debate on her legacy ahead of 50th anniversary of grand slam
Wednesday, 6 November 2019 11:07 pm
Margaret Court has vowed not to return to the Australian Open if Tennis Australia does not want to celebrate the 50th anniversary of her calendar-year grand slam.
The presence of her name on the tournament's No.2 court continues to divide the sport, two years after she opposed same-sex marriage.
Court's views have been condemned by a number of former tennis players, including contemporary Billie Jean King, while the threat of current players boycotting matches on Margaret Court Arena has thus far failed to materialise.
But as the 2020 tournament nears, Tennis Australia has yet to decide whether or how to commemorate the anniversary of her 1970 grand slam.
Court, who has not been to the Australian Open since 2017, believes the organisation is dodging what she acknowledges would become a controversial decision to honour her.
"I think Tennis Australia should sit and talk with me," Court told The Age.
"They have never phoned me. Nobody has spoken to me directly about it. I think they would rather not confront it."
Having watched all four majors celebrate compatriot Rod Laver this year, 50 years after his 1969 grand slam, Court will choose not to attend if she does not receive a call.
"They brought Rod in from America. If they think I'm just going to turn up, I don't think that is right. I think I should be invited," she said.
"I would hope they would pay my way to come like they paid for his, and honour me. If they are not going to do that, I don't really want to come."
Tennis Australia told the newspaper they "recognise the tennis achievements of Margaret Court, although her views do not align with our values of equality, diversity and inclusion".
Court's achievements – particularly her 24 grand slam titles – gained renewed attention after American superstar Serena Williams won the 2017 Australian Open, her 23rd major, to hold the outright Open Era record.
Williams, who has lost four grand slam finals in the past two years, is determined to pass Court for the all-time record.
Name change debate
Long-time Vogue editor Anna Wintour reignited the furore over the Margaret Court Arena name in January.
Wintour used a speech at an Australian Open event to call on Tennis Australia to rename the stadium for the second time in 16 years.
"It is inconsistent for the sport for Margaret Court's name to be on a stadium that does so much to bring all people together across their differences," the journalist said.
"This much I think is clear to anyone who understands the spirit and the joy of the game. Intolerance has no place in tennis.
"What we love (is) watching these remarkable men and women exceed themselves while being themselves in many different forms.
"Margaret Court was a champion on the court but a meeting point for players of all nations, preferences, and backgrounds should celebrate somebody who was a champion off the court as well."
Court said at the time her beliefs should not affect a legacy forged on the court.
"All is said is what the * said. I have nothing against homosexual people. If they choose to be gay, that's fine," she said.
"I have them in my church – they come every Sunday. They've been doing the flowers in the church for 14 years, and they're my biggest fans. I should be able to have my say as a minister of the Gospel. I believe I shouldn't be bullied for what I did in my past."