Margaret Court's Australian Open boycott: Why all the controversy?

Vicki Hodges
The Telegraph
Margaret Court will not attend the Australian Open this year - PA
Margaret Court will not attend the Australian Open this year - PA

What's the issue?

Margaret Court, an 11-time winner at the Australian Open, will not be in attendance at this year's tournament after deciding to boycott the opening grand slam of the year.

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Why won't she be there?

The 75-year-old opposes Australia's ruling to allow same sex-marriage and last year claimed “tennis is full of lesbians”. 

Court is a senior pastor at Perth’s Victory Life church and has been a critic of homosexuality for decades. The former women’s world No 1 won a record 24 grand slam singles titles during her career. She even has a court named after her at Melbourne Park.

“Tennis is full of lesbians. Even when I was playing there were only a couple there but those couple that took young ones into parties,” Court said last May. “And what you get at the top is often what you’ll get right through that sport.”

<span>Margaret Court alongside Rod Laver at the 2015 Australian Open</span> <span>Credit: AP </span>
Margaret Court alongside Rod Laver at the 2015 Australian Open Credit: AP

How did the tennis world react?

With incredulity. Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King called for her name to be stripped from the venue at Melbourne Park. Richel Hogenkamp, one of the few openly gay players on the women’s tour, was also supportive of this suggestion. 

"She has all the right to think her own way, everybody has," she said. "But I don't think you should be that outspoken. And for me, I have a girlfriend myself. So obviously I don't agree with what she's saying.

"So I think it would be a good thing to see if the Australian Open can maybe change the name of the stadium, because maybe some players don't feel so comfortable playing in a stadium named after Margaret Court."

Andy Murray had appealed to authorities to discuss the matter to ascertain the general consensus sooner rather than later to avoid a potential boycott.

Australian Open 2018 | Key information for first grand slam of year

“If something was to be done, I think it would be a lot more beneficial to do it before the tournament starts,” Murray said last spring. “For players to be in a position where you’re in a slam and kind of boycotting playing on the court, I think would potentially cause a lot of issues.”

On Friday, Billie Jean King called for the Arena to be renamed in light of Court's comments.

The No 1 court at Melbourne Park was renamed Margaret Court Arena back in 1998.

How did Margaret Court react to the players' threat?

In a stroppy, petulant manner. She said: "I think that is petty if they do that and it says what's in their heart.

"I think that's very childish, but that's not up to me and it doesn't affect me."

What will she do now?

Go on holiday and watch the Australian Open, which gets under way on Monday, January 15 on TV. She insists she is not running away from the issue.

<span>Margaret Court will go crabbing with her family instead</span> <span>Credit: Getty Images </span>
Margaret Court will go crabbing with her family instead Credit: Getty Images

"I don't run from things, I face them," she told the Australian Herald Sun. "I decided not to come across this year and do more crabbing."

Has she taken a stand against anyone else?

Yes. The furore came as a result of a letter she wrote to The West Australian where she revealed she would no longer fly Qantas anymore in protest at Qantas CEO's advocacy of same-sex marriage.

"I believe in marriage as a union between a man and a woman as stated in the Bible. Your statement leaves me no option but to use other airlines where possible for my extensive travelling." Virgin Australia is also a promoter of same sex marriage.

Court denies she is homophobic but says she is a deeply religious person and follows the scriptures.  

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