A ceremony dedicated to Margaret Court may have went off without a hitch, but many tennis stars used the celebration to distance themselves from her views.
A ceremony dedicated to Margaret Court may have went off without a hitch, but many tennis stars used the celebration to distance themselves from her views.

Cloud over Margaret Court grand slam anniversary

Aussie tennis legend Margaret Court was celebrated at the Australian Open as some of the game's biggest names fired volleys at her personal views.

The most successful tennis player in history - male or female - was feted on Rod Laver Arena before the Nick Kyrgios-Rafael Nadal blockbuster.

Rod Laver, Australia's other tennis immortal, presented Court, 77, with a full-size replica of the Australian Open trophy to honour the 50th anniversary of her Grand Slam sweep of all four majors.

Court holds up the Memorial Cup as her 50th anniversary of her Grand Slam is celebrated.
Court holds up the Memorial Cup as her 50th anniversary of her Grand Slam is celebrated.

There were far more cheers than jeers when Court, who was joined by about 60 family and friends at the ceremony, accepted the trophy and held it aloft with Laver by her side.

Smiling gleefully, the Albury-born queen of Aussie tennis paraded the prize before photographers and the packed crowd and appeared to whisper the words "I'm happy".

But she left without being allowed to speak to the crowd.

Court, who won an unprecedented 24 grand slam singles, 19 doubles and 21 mixed doubles crowns, last week called for her tennis and personal views to be separated.

In a video tribute, Court said playing for Australia brought a tear to her eye, she was so proud.

Crowd members hold a rainbow flag during the Margaret Court presentation. Picture: Mark Stewart
Crowd members hold a rainbow flag during the Margaret Court presentation. Picture: Mark Stewart

 

Margaret Court gets a replica off the 1970 Australian Open trophy of Rod Laver. Picture: Michael Klein
Margaret Court gets a replica off the 1970 Australian Open trophy of Rod Laver. Picture: Michael Klein

"I never looked at it as how famous you were or how well known you were," she said.

"With me it was what you got was what you got."

Openly gay tennis legend Martina Navratilova slammed Court.

"It's just unfortunate because I think what Margaret Court doesn't realise is how many people she hurts with her rhetoric," Navratilova said. "She can believe whatever she wants but she's actually hurting people and that's not OK."

Former Australian Open quarter finalist Jelena Dokic said celebrating Court was "a tough one and a lot of different people are going to have different opinions".

"Obviously, her winning 24 grand slam titles, as a tennis player she has done incredibly well," she said. "At the same time, the things that she has said and done off the court are extremely hurtful and unacceptable."

Tennis great John McEnroe said Court's outspoken stance on gay marriage and the transgender community should go hand in hand with her career.

"There's only one thing longer than a list of Margaret Court's tennis achievements - it's her list of offensive and homophobic statements," he said on his Commissioner of Tennis Twitter video.

peter.rolfe@news.com.au

@rolfep


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