Serena Williams and Margaret Court at the 2016 Hopman Cup in Perth.
Serena Williams and Margaret Court at the 2016 Hopman Cup in Perth.

Margaret Court sidelined at Aus Open

MARGARET Court will not present the women's singles winner's trophy at this year's Australian Open, Tennis Australia has confirmed.

The Aussie tennis legend, who holds the grand slam record with 24 major titles, is marking the 50th anniversary of the year she won the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open in a calendar year at Melbourne Park starting next week.

But her outspoken views on same sex marriage and transgender people has created a tense situation for officials.

Tennis Australia had been vague about how it plans to honour the 77-year-old, who will be attending the tournament for the first time since 2017.

It released a statement late last year which included the following pledge. "Her outstanding playing career is her tennis legacy and clearly worthy of recognition. We will continue to communicate with Margaret, as we have for many years, regarding events, our recognition of her achievement, our sport and its culture," the letter read.

But in the same statement TA also condemned Court's personal views, which it said had "demeaned and hurt many in our community over a number of years".

"They do not align with our values of equality, diversity and inclusion," TA said. "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."

Margaret Court congratulates Serena Williams at the 2005 Australian Open.
Margaret Court congratulates Serena Williams at the 2005 Australian Open.

On Wednesday, a report revealed Court would be kept away from trophy presentations at Melbourne Park.

Tennis Australia chief Craig Tiley followed the report by confirming Court will be sitting in the stands during the official trophy presentations.

"We've said that we're going to recognise Margaret ... she's one of the icons of sport in Australia and she's going to be recognised as such," Tiley said.

The Australian was the first to report Court would be kept off the podium during the presentations.

"It's understood TA will put Court on a seat in the grandstand rather than position her on the podium …" the report said.

"TA cannot be accused of treating Court differently to Rod Laver. The men's singles trophy last year was handed over by Ivan Lendl despite it being the 50th anniversary of Laver's calendar-year grand slam; the same anniversary, of the same feat, being marked by Court and TA this year.

"The official line from the governing body is that it never announces trophy presenters until the tournament has begun, but multiple sources say Court will not be involved. TA's use of Lendl has given them an out."

Court has shown she won't be silenced, using a sermon at her Perth church a fortnight ago to discuss her concern for transgender youth and the future of women's sport.

"Children are making the decision at seven or eight years of age to change their sex … no, just read the first two chapters of Genesis, that's all I say. Male and female," Court said.

"It's so wrong at that age because a lot of things are planted in this thought realm at that age, and they start to question 'what am I?'.

"And you know with that LGBT, they'll wish they never put the T on the end of it because, particularly in women's sports, they're going to have so many problems."

Fellow tennis legend Martina Navratilova, who married former Russian beauty queen Julia Lemigova in 2014, described the comments as "outrageous and so wrong".