Tennis great Court 'persecuted' for her beliefs

Margaret Court (Getty Images)
Margaret Court (Getty Images)

Melbourne - Australian tennis great Margaret Court said she was being "persecuted" for her beliefs on Monday after criticism of her anti-gay views overshadowed 50th anniversary celebrations of her 1970 Grand Slam.

The 77-year-old, now a church pastor, urged the media to focus on her tennis and not her beliefs, which include staunch opposition to same-sex marriage and comments that tennis is "full of lesbians".

Court, tennis's most decorated champion with a record 24 Grand Slam titles, has caused a dilemma for Australian Open organisers, who will mark the anniversary but have distanced themselves from her opinions.

"I think even at home, around the streets, wherever I go, I've had so many people touch me on the shoulder and say 'thank you for being my voice'," Court told ABC radio.

"I haven't had anybody touch me on the shoulder and say 'I hate you' or 'I don't like what you've said'.

"I teach what the Bible says about things and you get persecuted for it," added Court.

"But I still believe all that should not come in to 50 years ago, what I did in tennis for my nation."

Court has arrived in Melbourne for the anniversary celebrations, which will include a presentation on centre court and "other functions that go on that normally happen throughout the Open... not a lot, but it's good what's happening".

Court is a hugely divisive figure with WTA founder Billie Jean King among those calling for Melbourne Park's Margaret Court Arena to be renamed because of her attitude towards gays and transsexuals.

Tennis Australia, when it announced Court's anniversary celebrations last month, said it "does not agree with Court's personal views, which have demeaned and hurt many in our community over a number of years".

Collated results on day one of the Australian Open Grand Slam at Melbourne Park on Monday:

Men's singles

1st round

Matteo Berrettini (ITA x8) bt Andrew Harris (AUS) 6-3, 6-1, 6-3

Ricardas Berankis (LIT) bt Roberto Carballes (ESP) 6-4, 6-2, 6-2

Sam Querrey (USA) bt Borna Coric (CRO x25) 6-3, 6-4, 6-4

Guido Pella (ARG x22) bt John-Patrick Smith (AUS) 6-3, 7-5, 6-4

Gregoire Barrere (FRA) bt Mohamed Safwat (EGY) 6-7 (8/10), 7-6 (7/1), 6-4, 7-6 (7/5)

Marton Fucsovics (HUN) bt Denis Shapovalov (CAN x13) 6-3, 6-7 (7/9), 6-1, 7-6 (7/3)

Grigor Dimitrov (BUL x18) bt Juan Ignacio Londero (ARG) 4-6, 6-2, 6-0, 6-4

Daniel Evans (GBR x30) bt Mackenzie McDonald (USA) 3-6, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-3

Yoshihito Nishioka (JPN) bt Laslo Djere (SRB) 6-4, 3-6, 6-2, 7-6 (7/1)

Roger Federer (SUI x3) bt Steve Johnson (USA) 6-3, 6-2, 6-2

Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE x6) bt Salvatore Caruso (ITA) 6-0, 6-2, 6-3

Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) bt Marcos Giron (USA) 7-5, 6-1, 6-2

Novak Djokovic (SRB x2) bt Jan-Lennard Struff (GER) 7-6 (7/5), 6-2, 2-6, 6-1

Women's singles

1st round

Zhu Lin (CHN) bt Viktorija Golubic (SUI) 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (10/5)

Julia Georges (GER) bt Viktoria Kuzmova (SVK) 6-1, 6-2

Petra Martic (CRO x13) bt Christina McHale (USA) 6-3, 6-0

Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS x25) bt Jil Teichmann (SUI) 6-4, 4-6, 6-2

Barbora Krejcikova (CZE) bt Kaia Kanepi (EST) 7-6 (7/3), 2-6, 6-3

Paula Badosa (ESP) bt Johanna Larsson (SWE) 6-1, 6-0

Petra Kvitova (CZE x7) bt Katerina Siniakova (CZE) 6-1, 6-0

Naomi Osaka (JPN x3) bt Marie Bouzkova (CZE) 6-2, 6-4

Zheng Saisai (CHN) bt Anna Kalinskaya (RUS) 6-3, 6-2

Sorana Cirstea (ROU) bt Barbora Strycova (CZE x32) 6-2, 7-6 (7/5)

Ann Li (USA) bt Lizette Cabrera (AUS) 7-6 (7/4), 7-6 (12/10)

Sofia Kenin (USA x14) bt Martina Trevisan (ITA) 6-2, 6-4

Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) bt Kristie Ahn (USA) 6-1, 6-3

Tamara Zidansek (SLO) bt Han Na-lae (KOR) 6-3, 6-3

Serena Williams (USA x8) bt Anastasia Potapova (RUS) 6-0, 6-3

Ashleigh Barty (AUS x1) bt Lesya Tsurenko (UKR) 5-7, 6-1, 6-1

Coco Gauff (USA) bt Venus Williams (USA) 7-6 (7/5), 6-3

Caty McNally (USA) bt Samantha Stosur (AUS) 6-1, 6-4

Zhang Shuai (CHN) bt Sloane Stephens (USA x24) 2-6, 7-5, 6-2


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