Margaret Court has won her battle to be invited to the year’s first grand slam.
Margaret Court has won her battle to be invited to the year’s first grand slam.

Margaret Court cops stinging backhand

MARGARET Court is welcome to attend the year's first grand slam but Tennis Australia has doubled down on its opposition to the legend's stance on same-sex marriage.

TA has invited Court to attend the Australian Open as a special guest to mark the 50-year anniversary of her incredible 1970 Grand Slam, when she won all four majors.

However, in the same breath, Tennis Australia distanced itself from the 77-year-old and her views on gay marriage.

Court, a devout Christian, has caused controversy in the past for saying she does not believe gay people should be allowed to get married because the bible says that should only occur between a man and a woman.

In a statement on Saturday announcing Court's invitation to Melbourne Park in January, Tennis Australia also delivered a stinging backhand as it promoted its own programs encouraging diversity and inclusion in the sport.

"Tennis Australia respects Margaret's unmatched tennis career and welcomes her to the Australian Open, particularly in this milestone anniversary year," the TA statement read.

"As often stated, Tennis Australia does not agree with Margaret's personal views, which have demeaned and hurt many in our community over a number of years. They do not align with our values of equality, diversity and inclusion.

"Our sport welcomes everyone, no matter what gender, ability, race, religion or sexuality, and we will continue to actively promote inclusion initiatives widely at all levels of the sport.

"In 2017 the Australian Open launched #Open4All, a major diversity and inclusion initiative, designed to showcase the many inclusive opportunities in tennis.

"#Open4All encompasses events such as the Glam Slam, an international LGBTQI tournament that has been held at the Australian Open for the past few years, and will be back for AO 2020. We have also hosted events for the National Inclusion Conference and have ongoing working relationships with the Pride in Sport Index and Stand Up Events.

"The Australian Open is for everyone, and we look forward to welcoming the world to Melbourne in January 2020."

It's an extraordinary move to highlight how Court has "hurt and demeaned" people, in the same press release celebrating her milestone achievement in winning the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open in the same calendar year.

Margaret Court has divided Australia with her views on gay marriage.
Margaret Court has divided Australia with her views on gay marriage.

Tennis Australia was put in a tricky position when, earlier this month, Court called on the governing body to show her the same respect it afforded Aussie great Rod Laver, who was feted at all the majors this year in recognition of him winning the Grand Slam in 1969.

"I think Tennis Australia should sit and talk with me," Court told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

"They have never phoned me. Nobody has spoken to me directly about it. I think they would rather not confront it.

"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. 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."

Court added her views on gay marriage shouldn't have anything to do with her tennis legacy and maintained she had nothing against homosexuals, but simply believed they should not be allowed to marry.

"I don't feel any of that should be brought into my tennis career," Court said. "It was a different phase of my life from where I am now and if we are not big enough as a nation and a game to face those challenges there is something wrong."

Court's call sparked plenty of debate in Australia, and comedian Lawrence Mooney, host of Triple M Sydney's breakfast program, said her attitude towards gay people had no place in society.

Court wanted to be remembered in the same way Rod Laver was in 2019.
Court wanted to be remembered in the same way Rod Laver was in 2019.

"You can't use 'her views are popular' and 'she has a right to use them' to be homophobic, you just can't be," Mooney told Channel 9's Today program earlier in November.

"And if you're homophobic there's no space for you in public life.

"Discriminating about sexuality is a crime, so it is legislated against.

"Margaret Court's opinions on same-sex marriage and sexuality are abhorrent and she should be hounded out of the sport until she falls into line.

"It's absolutely abhorrent.

"Margie, catch up to 2019.

"Margaret Court needs to stop discriminating against people."

Court is one of just three women - alongside Maureen Connolly (1953) and Steffi Graf (1988) - to win all four grand slams in the same year.

"I'm looking forward to celebrating the 50th anniversary of winning the Grand Slam with my family and friends at the Australian Open," Court said.

"This is an incredible milestone for me, and I can't quite believe how quickly the time has gone. It's always wonderful to catch up with my fellow legends and I'm grateful to Tennis Australia.

"Tennis is a wonderful sport and I'm proud to be part of the history of our great game."