Wednesday, 20 June, 2018

Stories of the Open Era: Margaret Court, on and off the court

Gordon Reid of Great Britain in action during the mens final against Alfie Hewett of Great Britain on day five of The NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters Related reading Promising tennis stars prepare for Australian Open Wheelchair Championships
Rita Gibson | 13 January, 2018, 14:24

With AP Photos.Billie Jean King thinks one of the main venues at the Australian Open should be renamed following Margaret Court's comments about the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

That question was posed to Tennis Channel's Mary Carillo by Jon Wertheim in the latest Beyond the Baseline podcast (listen here) during a discussion about Margaret Court, the 24-time Grand Slam singles champion.

Court is not attending this year's Australian Open, which starts Monday, but has been a regular guest in the past.

"Every time I see my name up there, I can hardly breathe because of the responsibility that goes with it", King said.

Court, now a church pastor, drew fire past year for saying she would avoid Qantas airline for its support of same-sex marriage, which became law in her homeland in December following a referendum. "It's a public facility".

"I think if you were talking about indigenous people, Jews or any other people, I can't imagine the public would want someone to have their name on something". Maybe because of our community, the L.G.B.T.I.Q. community, people might feel differently.

King, one of the original professionals in women's tennis and victor of 12 major singles titles in the Open era, said she had regularly met Court at tournaments in the years since they retired after "we grew up together playing each other". We're all God's children so I probably don't think it's appropriate to have her name.

Since leaving professional sport Margaret Court has founded her own church, The Victory Life Centre, which is based in Perth.

"I was a proponent of hers, trying to get her to the best possible court, ? I'm a gay woman; about the LGBTIQ community", King said at a news conference Friday after she was named the WTA's "Woman of the Year" in honor of the 50th anniversary of her first Australian Open triumph.

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King, who is an open lesbian, added that Court's homophobia had "really went deep in my heart and soul".

"I was looking forward to seeing her".

The popularly supported legalisation of same-sex marriage through parliament late past year could mean protests against that court from the public or players during the 2018 tournament.

Tournament director Craig Tiley said Court had a standing invitation to the season-opening major and would be welcome in the future.

"No, our position hasn't changed", Tiley said.

But she said she could no could longer support the flagship court bearing her friend's name because of her views on sexuality. They are not the views of our organisation and not the views of our sport.

"We're an organisation that celebrates diversity and inclusivity and equality".

9th July 1973: Margaret Court (nee Smith) of Australia in action at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships. "As far as the name of the arena, that's up to a broader group of people than just one person or one organization".

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