Margaret Court has returned serve at two tennis legends after they hit out at her during the Australian Open in a public protest court on camera.
During the Australian Open, tennis greats John McEnroe and Martina Navratilova staged a bold public protest against 77-year-old Court.
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The legendary pair apologised to Tennis Australia for a breach of "protocol" after holding aloft a sign urging Margaret Court Arena to be changed to Evonne Goolagong Arena.
Court, who holds the all-time record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles, has been heavily criticised for voicing her religious-based opposition to same-sex marriage and transgender athletes.
Last Thursday, McEnroe appeared on the Today Show on Channel Nine in which he sent a message to Court.
“What she said in the past, her comments, to me go over the line of what should be acceptable, in my opinion,” McEnroe said.
“I would say to Margaret that ‘you are a tremendous champion. You should be perfectly entitled to your beliefs.’
“But I would say that (she needs) a little bit more understanding about each and every person’s, you know, the way they live their lives.”
Navratilova also had some strong words for Court when explaining her protest.
“It’s just unfortunate because I think what Margaret Court doesn’t realise is how many people she hurts with her rhetoric,”she said
“She can believe whatever she wants but she’s actually hurting people and that’s not OK.”
But Court hit back on Tuesday in an interview with Channel Nine News.
“Well, I think they (Tennis Australia) said they were going to honour me but not celebrate me because of my stance and my views on gay marriage and all those areas, which I’ve got nothing against people who are gay,” Court said.
“From the tennis side of it, where they pointed the finger at me and tried to discriminate against everything that I’ve done.
“I always thought I got on quite well with John McEnroe and I’ve always respected him. I feel sorry for him that he speaks like that and that he can’t separate one part of life to another.
“I’d never go to another nation, whatever I thought of the person, I would never say, ‘Hey, you should take their name off a building.’ And I think that was very, very wrong.”
Court says she gets lots of messages claiming she is supported by many Australians.
Djokovic weighs in
When asked about his own thoughts on the divisive Court, Australian Open champ Djokovic said her opinion should be respected by critics even if they didn't agree with it.
“Margaret is a huge champion, a tennis hero in Australia, and also around the world. One of the most important tennis players in the history of women’s game,” Djokovic said. “Of course, when she says something like that, it has a huge impact.
“I don’t support … what she said. I don’t think it was the right thing to say. But she probably has her reasons and we have to respect that she has a difference in opinion. That’s all there is to it.”
McEnroe and Navratilova said while they were sorry for the way they went about the Court protest, they did not regret the campaign against her.