King’s re­think on Court Arena

The Weekend Australian - - TENNIS - COURT­NEY WALSH

Hav­ing once cham­pi­oned Mar­garet Court’s cause in re­gards to hav­ing a sta­dium court named af­ter her, Bil­lie-Jean King yes­ter­day de­clared she would refuse to play on it if asked.

But Aus­tralia’s most re­cent grand slam cham­pion Sam Stosur doubted a mooted boy­cott of Mar­garet Court Arena this month was a pri­or­ity for cur­rent play­ers.

Fifty years af­ter win­ning the Aus­tralian Open, King re­turned to Mel­bourne for the first time in eight years in an ap­pear­ance al­ways likely to cause con­tro­versy given her his­tory with Court and role as a cham­pion for change.

In­vited by Ten­nis Aus­tralia to lead an ini­tia­tive aimed at im­prov­ing equal­ity, di­ver­sity and in­clu­sion, King said she was dis­ap­pointed with her ri­val’s “deroga­tory” com­men­tary dur­ing the same-sex mar­riage plebiscite.

As a re­sult, King has changed her mind in re­gards main­tain­ing Court’s name on the Mel­bourne Park sta­dium named af­ter the Aus­tralian leg­end.

“I prob­a­bly don’t think it’s ap­pro­pri­ate to have her name,” King said. “I was a pro­po­nent of hers, try­ing to get her the best pos­si­ble court. She won 64 grand slams. She won more than ev­ery­body else. When Rocket, Rod Laver, got given the arena, I said ‘What are you go­ing to do for Mar­garet?’

“But I think it’s re­ally im­por­tant, if you’re go­ing to have your name on any­thing, that you’re hos­pitable, in­clu­sive, (that) you’re open­ing arms to ev­ery­one that comes to a pub­lic fa­cil­ity.

“I just think she’s got­ten re­ally deroga­tory and when she talked about chil­dren (that are) trans­gen­der be­ing from the devil, that put me over the edge.”

There has been talk of play­ers boy­cotting Mar­garet Court Arena, but King said she would only “en­cour­age them to seek out their own heart and mind”.

Stosur said she would “play on what­ever court I am sched­uled to play on”.

“It is ob­vi­ously a hot topic in the press, but I wouldn’t say that too many play­ers would have spent time think­ing about whether they are go­ing to play on Mar­garet Court Arena or not play on Mar­garet Court Arena go­ing into the Aus­tralian Open,” she said.

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