She will be recognised on the 50th anniversary of her 1970 calendar-year grand slam sweep but tennis legend Margaret Court will not be presenting the Australian Open trophy to the women’s champion.
Tennis Australia chief Craig Tiley confirmed the decision on Wednesday but added Court, who has sparked controversy with her views on same-sex marriage and transgender people, will still be honoured at the major.
The holder of an unmatched 24 grand slam singles trophies, Court’s achievements will be celebrated throughout the 2020 Open.
“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. “We’ve spoken to her about what the activities are that we’re going to do, but some of them are a surprise as well.”
Court, who 50 years ago became the first woman in the Open era to win all four grand slam singles titles in a single calendar year, has presented the winner’s trophy several times before.
The 77-year-old’s hardline views have caused headaches for Tennis Australia and prompted public condemnation from numerous high-profile athletes including tennis great Martina Navratilova, who described her recent criticism of transgender children and women as “pathetic”.
However, Australian legend Rod Laver did not present the men’s singles trophy last year despite being in attendance for the 50th anniversary of his own calendar grand slam.
Tiley was diplomatic when asked if he was bracing for controversy during Court’s presence at the Open. “That’s going to be up to the Australian fans,” he said. “There’s no fans in the world that are like Australian fans. I’ll leave their response up to them.”
Tennis Australia angered members of Court’s family in December when the organisation announced it would celebrate her achievements while attempting to distance itself from her views.
“As often stated, Tennis Australia does not agree with Margaret’s personal views, which have demeaned and hurt many in our community over a number of years,” a TA statement read.
“They do not align with our values of equality, diversity and inclusion.”