Tennis Australia has confirmed it plans to honor Margaret Court’s 50th anniversary of her 1970 Grand Slam during January’s Australian Open but has stressed her controversial anti-gay views “do not align with our values of equality, diversity and inclusion.”
Court won 24 Grand Slam singles titles, including the French Open, Wimbledon, U.S. Open and Australian Open in 1970.
“This is an incredible milestone for me, and I can’t quite believe how quickly the time has gone,” Court was quoted as saying in a Tennis Australia statement on Saturday.
Now a Christian pastor in Western Australia state, the 77-year-old Court caused controversy in 2017 by saying the devil was to blame for young people questioning their sexuality and wrote a public letter urging Australians to vote against same-sex marriage “for the sake of Australia, our children, and our children’s children.“ Same-sex marriage has since been legalized in Australia.
She has been criticized by Billie Jean King, among others in women’s tennis. Some critics have urged Tennis Australia to change the name of Margaret Court Arena, which is one of the main show courts at Melbourne Park, where the Open will be held from Jan. 20 to Feb. 2.
There was some speculation that Tennis Australia would avoid any controversy and not plan any major commemoration of the anniversary. But in June, Tennis Australia’s video production team spent a day with Court at her home in Perth, filming for a mini documentary to be released during the tournament.
“During filming, Court shared precious memories of her time on the tour and intimate reflections on her unmatched achievements,“ Tennis Australia said, stressing that the commemorations are for Court’s past tennis prowess.
“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,” Tennis Australia said in a statement. “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.”
Serena Williams is one win away from matching Court’s record 24 Grand Slam singles victories. American Maureen Connolly in 1953 and Steffi Graf in 1988 are the only two other women to have won all four Grand Slams in the calendar year.