Court to skip Australian Open after gay uproar

Margaret Court (AFP)
Margaret Court (AFP)

Melbourne - Tennis great Margaret Court, whose views on homosexuality sparked calls for a boycott of the Australian Open stadium named after her, will not attend this year's tournament, organisers said on Friday.

The Australian legend, now a church pastor, initially drew fire for saying last year she would avoid Qantas airline for its support of same-sex marriage, which became law in her homeland in December.

She later claimed tennis was "full of lesbians" and that transgender children were the result of a Nazi-style plot.

Her views drew stinging criticism from a host of players including gay former star Martina Navratilova, who called Court a "homophobe" and lashed out at the "sick and dangerous" comments.

The furore led to suggestions that some players would boycott the Margaret Court Arena at this month's opening Grand Slam unless the flagship stadium at Melbourne Park was renamed.

Court, 75, poured more fuel on the fire by claiming a gay conspiracy from America was behind calls to strip her name from the arena.

"As a former champion Margaret was invited to the Australian Open. We have been advised she will not be attending this year," tournament organisers told AFP.

Court denied she was avoiding the tournament after the controversy.

"I don't run from things, I face them," she told Melbourne's Herald Sun newspaper on Friday. "I decided not to come across this year and do more crabbing."

The Perth-based Court said she would instead head to her holiday home and watch the tennis on television, while indulging her hobby of catching crabs.

She also said it would be "childish" for players to boycott the court named after her.

"I think that is petty if they do that and it says what's in their heart," she said.

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

Court is Australia's greatest female tennis player, winning a record 24 major titles.

Serena Williams has won 23 but said Friday she would not be playing in Melbourne after recently giving birth.

Court told the Herald Sun she did not hate gay people and was angered how she was made out to be a homophobe who no longer deserved credit for her tennis career.

"In many ways they bought my tennis into it and I was speaking from a biblical side," she said. "Bringing my tennis into it and what I did in my life ... they should be ashamed."

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