Court silenced as honour falls flat

 

Controversial Aussie tennis great Margaret Court has kept silent and been faced with protests as a ceremony to honour her achievements at the Australian Open fell flat on Monday night.

Tennis Australia walked the tightrope in celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 24-time champion's 1970 grand slam on Rod Laver Arena before the Nick Kyrgios, Rafael Nadal blockbuster.

Tennis Australia made it clear before the ceremony that Court's achievements were to be celebrated during a brief ceremony at the Australian Open - but the tennis icon's controversial views on the LGBTI community were not welcome.

Tennis Australia has consistently declared it does not support Court's views. She has previously voiced controversial fundamentalist Christian and homophobic views in public.

Court was kept silent during the ceremony which involved Aussie tennis legend Rod Laver presenting her with a replica of the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup which she won at the 1970 Australian Open.

Court received a lukewarm reception as she walked out into the middle of the stadium - and there were no visible acts of heckling or booing.

Witnesses inside the stadium reported Court did not receive a standing ovation - even during the moment she held the trophy aloft from a platform on the iconic tennis court.

 

Margaret Court with Rod Laver.
Margaret Court with Rod Laver.

"Tepid applause, scattered boos and an almost entirely seated ovation for Margaret Court," New York Times tennis reporter Ben Rothenberg posted on Twitter.

He also reported one spectator launched a silent protest during Court's ceremony by standing up and raising a rainbow flag.

According to some reports, there were as many as three fans inside the stadium who stood up and unfurled rainbow flags during Court's ceremony.

 

 

 

Monday's ceremony was conducted to a backdrop of the Aussie tennis legend being slammed by tennis legends John McEnroe and Martina Navratilova.

The ceremony began in bizarre fashion with a blacked out Rod Laver Arena hosting a dance music and lighting show that had shapes and colours bouncing around the stadium to high-energy dance music.

 

Navratilova canned Margaret Court on Monday afternoon for "actually hurting people" with her controversial views ahead of the Monday night event.

Navratilova, who is gay, said Court needed to keep her opinions to herself.

"It's just unfortunate because I think what Margaret Court doesn't realise is how many people she hurts with her rhetoric," Navratilova said.

 

There was at least one protest inside the venue.
There was at least one protest inside the venue.

"She can believe whatever she wants but she's actually hurting people and that's not OK." Former men's champion John McEnroe has also blasted Tennis Australia for celebrating Court's achievements.

"There's only one thing longer than a list of Margaret Court's tennis achievements - it's her list of offensive and homophobic statements," McEnroe said in a video on Eurosport.

"Tennis Australia is facing a dilemma - what do they do with their crazy aunt?

"Its solution?

"We will recognise what she did in 1970 but we won't celebrate the person. "Huh? It doesn't work that way. You can't separate the person from her achievements."

McEnroe's attack was published on the eve of Court's day of being honoured at her home slam, a prickly situation that has been described as "one of the more awkward moments in tennis history".

Christopher Clarey, global sports columnist and tennis writer from The New York Times said on ABC Radio on Monday morning Tennis Australia's attempts to honour Court while condemning her views is a recipe for a "downbeat ceremony".

"I think this is one of the more awkward moments in tennis history... you have Margaret Court's 50th Anniversary Grand Slam... Tennis Australia doesn't agree with her views," he said.

"It's clearly an extraordinary situation. I've never seen anything like it. I think it will be a very downbeat and awkward ceremony when the time comes on court."

- with AAP

 



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