Margaret Court has accepted Tennis Australia’s invitation to the Australian Open in January to celebrate the 50th anniversary of her 1970 grand slam sweep.
The governing body said it did not agree with Court’s opposition to same-sex marriage, which had “demeaned and hurt many in our community”, but acknowledged it was important to recognise her efforts in winning the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open in the same calendar year.
“I’m looking forward to celebrating the 50th anniversary of winning the grand slam with my family and friends at the Australian Open,” Court said.
“This is an incredible milestone for me, and I can’t quite believe how quickly the time has gone.
“It’s always wonderful to catch up with my fellow legends and I’m grateful to Tennis Australia.
“Tennis is a wonderful sport and I’m proud to be part of the history of our great game.”
Court’s views on same-sex marriage and homosexuality in general have put her at odds with numerous current and past players, including Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King. There have been calls for her name to be removed from the Margaret Court Arena at Melbourne Park, the home of the Open.
In 2017 she said tennis was “full of lesbians” and characterised calls for the removal of her name as “bullying”. In a 2018 submission to Philip Ruddock’s religious freedom review, she warned that Australia was “forsaking foundational truths” and called on Ruddock to ensure “that Christianity will not be silenced or stifled in Australia”.
The holder of an unsurpassed 24 grand slam singles trophies, Court’s achievements will be celebrated throughout the 2020 Open from 20 January to 2 February.
In June, TA’s production team spent a day with Court at her home in Perth, filming for a mini documentary to be released during the tournament.
“During filming, Court shared precious memories of her time on the tour and intimate reflections on her unmatched achievements,” TA said in a statement on Saturday.
“Her on-court prowess, reputation for being supremely fit and training in a fashion way ahead of her time, along with her nickname ‘the arm’ for her massive reach, are remembered by fellow legends, including Rod Laver.”
The Australian Open’s official program also includes a feature on Court’s achievements in 1970.
Other plans for the 50th anniversary include in-stadium entertainment that takes the audience back to 1970 and Court’s historic win, and the annual Australian Open Legends Lunch.
“Tennis Australia respects Margaret’s unmatched tennis career and welcomes her to the Australian Open, particularly in this milestone anniversary year,” the statement said.
“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. They do not align with our values of equality, diversity and inclusion.
“Our sport welcomes everyone, no matter what gender, ability, race, religion or sexuality, and we will continue to actively promote inclusion initiatives widely at all levels of the sport.”
The American Maureen Connolly, in 1953, and the German Steffi Graf (1988) are the only two other women to have won all four slams in the same year.