John Alexander, a Davis Cup hero who now serves in the Morrison government as a backbench MP, agreed with Court that her personal views should not lessen her tennis legacy.
“You have got to celebrate her career,” he told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald. “Everything that she did as a tennis player should be celebrated.
“She is a preacher. She believes devoutly in what she says. What is popular and accepted these days may not be consistent with her views so she has been vilified. But to deprive her of any acknowledgement of what a great player she was is not right.
“If you go back to the time when Billie Jean King was openly gay and left her husband for a woman Margaret would have been seen with her Christian virtue as a pillar of society. She hasn’t changed, but now we totally accept the right of people to marry someone of the same sex. Margaret hasn’t changed, but the times have changed.”
Margaret hasn’t changed, but the times have changed.
Wendy Turnbull, a three-time finalist at major tournaments, was more circumspect.
“I think some of the things she has said regarding this are absolutely crazy. However it is freedom of speech and Australians have this,” said Turnbull, who started her professional tennis career in 1975 just as Court’s career was coming to an end.
“What Margaret achieved is special and she worked hard to do this and she represented Australia well while playing tennis.
“We should recognise her grand slam 50th anniversary, but how I don’t know. It should not be overboard.”
We should recognise her grand slam 50th anniversary, but how I don’t know. It should not be overboard.
This appears unlikely. Margaret Court has not attended the Australian Open since 2017, before her public comments about the influence of women in tennis and transgender children became a flashpoint in the marriage equality debate. It is unclear whether she will return in January.
Court told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald that no one from Tennis Australia had spoken to her about its plans to mark her 50th anniversary. A spokeswoman for Tennis Australia said nothing had been finalised.
Tennis Australia last year flew Rod Laver from America to attend the Australian Open and later helped the United States Tennis Association organise a tribute dinner for Laver at the Museum of Modern Art in New York during the US Open. Celebratory events were also held by the All England Lawn Tennis Club and at Roland Garros.
Court has declared she deserves equal treatment and will not come to the Australian Open unless she is duly honoured.
Chip Le Grand is The Age’s chief reporter. He writes about crime, sport and national affairs, with a particular focus on Melbourne.
Scott Spits is a sports reporter for The Age