Margaret Court has accepted Tennis Australia’s invitation to the Australian Open, despite the governing body slamming her opposition to same-sex marriage.
This January marks the 50th anniversary of Court’s 1970 grand slam sweep, winning the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open in the same calendar year.
But while the governing body extended an invite to recognise her efforts, they took a solid stance against her controversial views.
‘Tennis Australia respects Margaret’s unmatched tennis career and welcomes her to the Australian Open, particularly in this milestone anniversary year,’ TA said in a statement on Saturday.
Tennis Australia has extended an invitation to Margaret Court, 70, (pictured) to attend the January Australian Open but has distanced itself from her views
‘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.’
A devout Christian, the 77-year-old has caused controversy in the past for saying she doesn’t believe gay people should be allowed to marry because the bible does not condone it, news.com.au reports.
This year, fellow tennis champion Rod Laver was feted around the world for the anniversary of his 1969 grand slam.
With Court’s milestone approaching, Tennis Australia was placed in an awkward situation as to how to recognise the controversial figure’s anniversary.
Earlier this month, Court told The Age she would like TA to sit and talk with her and that she would not return without a formal invite.
In June, TA’s 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,’ the statement said.
In 1970, Margaret Court won all four majors, a feat achieved only by two other women American Maureen Connolly and German Steffi Graf
‘Her on-court prowess, reputation for being supremely fit and training in a fashion way ahead of her time, along with her nickname ‘the arm’ for her massive reach, are remembered by fellow legends including Rod Laver.’
Court said she was delighted and could not wait to attend the event.
‘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.’
In 2017, the Australian Open launched #Open4All, a major diversity and inclusion initiative, designed to showcase the numerous inclusive opportunities in tennis.
Margaret Court has accepted the invitation to attend the Australian Open (stadium pictured)
‘#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,’ the TA statement read.
‘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.’
The holder of an unsurpassed 24 grand slam singles trophies, Court’s achievements will be celebrated throughout the 2020 Open from January 20 to February 2.
The Australian Open’s official program also includes a feature on Court’s achievements in 1970.
Other plans for the 50th anniversary include in-stadium entertainment that takes the audience back to 1970 and Court’s historic win, and the annual Australian Open Legends Lunch.
American Maureen Connolly in 1953 and German Steffi Graf in 1988 are the only two other women to have won all four slams in the same year.
The Australian Open’s official program for the event includes a feature on Court’s achievements in 1970 (stadium pictured)