Fri, Nov 08, 2019 - Page 16 News List

Margaret Court tells Australia to honor her like Rod Laver

Reuters, MELBOURNE

Australian tennis great Margaret Court yesterday said that she would not return to Melbourne Park until formally invited by Tennis Australia and demanded that the sport’s national governing body properly recognize her calendar Grand Slam feat.

Court, who holds the all-time record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles, has not attended the Australian Open since 2017, when her religion-based opposition to same-sex marriage made her a lightning rod for criticism in the run-up to a national referendum on the issue.

However, in the lead-up to the 50th anniversary of her 1970 calendar Grand Slam, Court said that she wanted her achievement to be given the same respect afforded compatriot Rod Laver, who was feted earlier this year at Melbourne Park for his 1969 Grand Slam.

“I think Tennis Australia should sit and talk with me,” Court, whose name adorns the second show court at Melbourne Park, told Fairfax Media.

“They have never phoned me. Nobody has spoken to me directly about it. I think they would rather not confront it,” Court said.

“They brought Rod in from America. If they think I’m just going to turn up, I don’t think that is right,” she said.

“I think I should be invited. I would hope they would pay my way to come like they paid for his, and honor me. If they are not going to do that, I don’t really want to come,” she added.

In women’s tennis, only Court, Maureen Connolly (1953) and Steffi Graf (1988) have managed the calendar Grand Slam, widely considered the game’s toughest achievement.

Rod Laver, who completed the calendar Grand Slam in 1962 and in 1969, is the only man after Don Budge (1938) to have managed it.

Court, a Christian pastor at a Perth, Australia-based church she set up decades ago, has long been vocal about her opposition to same-sex marriage, a stance that has alienated openly gay players, past and present.

A Tennis Australia spokeswoman said that it was “in the process of working through” how Court’s milestone would be recognized.

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