Tennis champion Margaret Court, who has had a frosty relationship with the Australian Open over her views on sexuality and same-sex marriage in recent years, says she not been invited to this year’s tournament in a radio interview with 3AW.
The 24-time grand slam winner, who has won her home grand slam 11 times, said she would not have accepted the invite if she had received it.
“I’m not coming to the Australian Open. No, I wasn’t invited,” Court told Australian radio channel 3AW on Tuesday.
“With coronavirus, we’ve been so busy with our community work. I haven’t even thought about it.”
CNN has reached out to the Australian Open organizers to ask why Court wasn’t invited.
While Court achievements on the court are unrivalled – her 24 grand slams are the most in tennis history – her views on the LGBT community and opposition to same-sex marriage have been criticized.
“I’ve always said what the Bible says,” she said on Tuesday when quizzed about her views. “I don’t hate anybody. I love people, and I love gay people and transgender people, and we get them into our community services. We never turn anybody away.
“A lot of things were said which I never really said, which I think was the sad part.
“I’ve been bullied a lot in the last few years, and I don’t mind. That’s alright. But if I say anything, then I’m a bigot and I’m everything else, and I don’t like that.”
At last year’s Australian Open, she was invited by the tournament to celebrate the 50th anniversary of her grand slam sweep but organizers said they didn’t agree with her “demeaning” personal views.
She won all four grand slams – the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open – in 1970.
During last year’s Australian Open, tennis greats Martina Navratilova and John McEnroe protested against the name of the Margaret Court Arena in Melbourne.
Navratilova unfurled a banner reading “Evonne Goolagong Arena” in reference to Australia’s seven-time grand slam champion and paraded it around the court with McEnroe.
Goolagong, who worn 13 grand slam titles, grew up in the wheat town of Barrellan in New South Wales, one of eight children. She was born into Aborigine heritage, and the only family of its kind in town, the Goolagong kids faced prejudice, according to the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
Last week it was revealed last week that Court will receive the Companion to the Order of Australia (AO) award, the country’s highest honor.
The decision to award her the honor was criticized however, with Australian journalist Kerry O’Brien in fact rejecting his Australia Day award to protest the decision. Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews called Court’s views “disgraceful” and “hurtful.”
However, Court says she does not regret accepting the honor.
“No, because I loved representing my nation,” she said. “When I got the AO it was for my community reach area. We put out 75 tons of food a week. And this was for my tennis, and I think it was a long-time coming.
“I wasn’t one who looked for it. I didn’t know I was getting it. I was very honored when I was told I was. There wasn’t a lot of fuss about it, but there has been a lot of other people who have made a lot of fuss about it.”
Court’s record of 24 grand slam titles is unmatched in both the men’s and the women’s game. Serena Williams is second on the all-time list with 23, ahead of Steffi Graf’s 22.
Australia Day in 2021 was marked on Tuesday.