Billie Jean to ease up on Margaret Court

Tim Balk
Billie Jean King is ready to ease criticism of Margaret Court but hopes she'll change too

Trailblazing tennis legend Billie Jean King has declared she'll turn down the volume of her criticisms of one-time Australian rival Margaret Court - but she wants Court to change her tune on the LGBT community.

Two years ago, King called for the renaming of the Australian Open's Margaret Court Arena after Court said tennis is "full of lesbians" and spoke out against transgender youth. King said her response got under the 77-year-old's skin.

"She's mad at me, because she doesn't want me to say her name should be removed," King told the New York Daily News. "And I appreciate that. I'm going to stop probably."

But she added she wants Court, a tennis titan turned Pentecostal pastor, to be "more loving."

Fellow American greats Martina Navratilova and John McEnroe voiced their displeasure with Court last month, staging a protest at the Australian Open.

The two held up a sign that said: "Evonne Goolagong Arena" in colourful typeset, pushing for the renaming of the court for the seven-time Grand Slam winner.

Navratilova and McEnroe later apologised for breaking Australian Open rules with their protest.

King wasn't present at the event and said she wouldn't have joined Navratilova and McEnroe.

In fact, the openly gay King said she initially wanted Court to get a whole facility named after her, not just a court.

But King said Court isn't living up to the honour.

"When someone has their name on something, you've got to be really hospitable, and I feel that Margaret's not doing that," King told The News at Carnegie Hall after she took part in a panel on women's rights.

The 73-year-old would know something about naming honours. In 2006, the United States Tennis Association named its entire National Tennis Center facility in Queens after her.