Sport Tennis Australian Open Australian Open: John McEnroe hits out at Margaret Court on eve of celebrations

Australian Open: John McEnroe hits out at Margaret Court on eve of celebrations

Tennis Australia's decision to recognise Margaret Court's achievements sparked condemnation from tennis circles. Photo: Getty
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Former tennis champion John McEnroe was renowned during his heyday for his propensity to rattle off stinging comments towards fellow players and umpires.

Now, the tennis great has fired one of his fiercest serves at Margaret Court – and Tennis Australia’s response to its polarising “crazy aunt” – on the eve of a ceremony marking her achievements.

Court, who holds the all-time grand slam record with 24 titles and having achieved the coveted calendar year ‘Grand Slam’ in 1970, will be recognised on the 50th anniversary of her feat.

Rod Laver, who won the Grand Slam twice, will present Court with a life-sized replica of the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Trophy on his namesake court, prior to the much-awaited fourth round clash between Rafael Nadal and Nick Kyrgios [Monday, 7pm].

However, McEnroe believes there’s something glaring Tennis Australia will forget to address: “Her list of offensive and homophobic statements.”

Opening his three-minute monologue, the American legend tackles statements Court made on Apartheid in South Africa during her playing days.

“She said: ‘I love South Africa! They have the racial situation better organised than anyone else.’ What?”, McEnroe questions.

McEnroe then highlighted Court’s toxic fundamentalist statements on transgender children and homophobic comments directed at the LGBTIQ community at-large.

As debate raged over same-sex marriage leading up to the November 2017 plebiscite result, Court told an Australian Christian radio station that tennis was “full of lesbians,” and falsely claimed a “gay lobby” was attempting to infiltrate schools through the Safe Schools program.

Court also viciously attacked openly gay former player Casey Dellacqua, who made the Australian Open fourth round in 2008 and four grand slam doubles finals with Ash Barty, in a newspaper article in 2013.

Dellacqua is part of this year’s commentary team for the Nine Network.

To those, McEnroe bluntly said: “Margaret Court is actually a ventriloquist using the bible of the dummy to say whatever she wants.”

Margaret Court has returned to the Australian Open in the years since publicly making homophobic remarks. Photo: Getty

However, the seven-time grand slam champion left his most scathing words for Tennis Australia, who have welcomed the now-pentecostal minister despite denouncing her anti-LGBTIQ views.

Craig Tiley, the Australian Open’s chief executive, used a television interview at the tournament’s outset to clarify his organisation will mark “her tennis achievements only,” saying “there’s a difference between a recognition of [her Grand Slam] and a celebration of someone[‘s beliefs].”

McEnroe, like a growing cohort of the tennis community including former champions Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King, was bewildered.

“Tennis Australia is facing a dilemma: what do they do with their crazy aunt? They finally decided to invite her, but it came with a twist. ‘We will recognise what she did in 1970 but we won’t celebrate the person.’ Huh?”

Margaret Court (right), pictured with tennis legends including Martina Navratilova (second from left) and fellow Australian Evonne Goolagong Cawley (centre). Photo: Getty

“Well it doesn’t work that way, you can’t separate the person from her achievements.

“Look at me, if you recognise the fact I won seven grand slams, guess what, then you’ve got to celebrate the fact that I had the loudest mouth in the history of the tennis tour.”

To cap off his riposte, McEnroe issued one final plea to Serena Williams, who lost in the third round at Melbourne Park to China’s Wang Qiang.

Williams, a seven-time winner in Melbourne, remains one grand slam title shy of equalling Court’s all-time record, with her last victory coming here in 2017.

“Serena, do me a favour and get two more grand slams this year and get to 25, so we can leave Margaret Court and her offensive views in the past, where they both belong,” McEnroe begged.

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