Margaret Court's conspicuous absence amid ugly Australian Open furore

The Aussie tennis champion hasn't been sighted at Melbourne Park for the last three years.

Margaret Court, pictured here at the Australian Open.
Margaret Court's annual appearance at the Australian Open is a thing of the past. Image: Getty

As the Australian Open celebrated some of its greatest champions over the last few days, Margaret Court was a notable absentee. The woman who many believe is the greatest female tennis player of all time wasn't sighted at either of the Australian Open finals - and whether rightly or wrongly - her absence was conspicuous.

The likes of Rod Laver, Evonne Goolagong, John Newcombe, Ken Rosewall and Ash Barty were all spotted at various stages throughout finals weekend, but not Court. The 80-year-old's controversial views are so far out of line with those of Tennis Australia that Court wouldn't attend, even if she was extended an invitation.

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Court used to make an annual appearance at the Melbourne Park grand slam, but hasn't been sighted since 2020 - when she was honoured in a special ceremony to mark the 50-year anniversary of her 'grand slam' in 1970 when she won all four majors that year. It looks like it will be the last time she shows her face at the Australian Open.

This year Tennis Australia introduced a Pride Day to celebrate inclusivity in the sport, while also bringing in a 'pride hub' and 'all gender' toilets around Melbourne Park. The grand slam also had the 'Glam Slam' event from January 25-27 to celebrate the LGBTI+ community.

The moves are so far out of line with Court's divisive views that it's hard to see her ever returning to Melbourne Park, even with Tennis Australia resisting calls to rename Margaret Court Arena to something less controversial. After skipping the Australian Open in 2018 she described same-sex marriage as a 'trend'.

“I think there will be a price to pay for it in the future in the nation and people will see it’s not about marriage,” she told the Herald Sun at the time. “There will be a genderless generation. My thing was a marriage is between a man and a woman.”

Margaret Court, pictured here being honoured at the Australian Open in 2020.
Margaret Court was honoured at the Australian Open in 2020, but hasn't been sighted since. (Photo by WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images) (AFP via Getty Images)

Laura Robson slams 'inexcusable' Margaret Court remarks

Speaking on Pride Day at Melbourne Park last week, British player-turned commentator Laura Robson made mention of Court. Robson revealed she was among the many players who called on officials to change the name of Margaret Court Arena.

When asked if it was the first time she'd worn the pride flag by Eurosport co-commentator Alize Lim, Robson said: "No, not at all. You've got to represent on a day like today so happy to wear the rainbow, got the fan out as well. It's a hot day, it's the perfect accessory."

Evonne Goolagong Cawley and Billie Jean King, pictured here during the women's final at the Australian Open.
Evonne Goolagong Cawley and Billie Jean King look on during the women's final at the Australian Open. (Photo by WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images) (AFP via Getty Images)
Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall and John Newcombe, pictured here at the Australian Open.
Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall and John Newcombe at the Australian Open. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

Robson reflected on the moment she wore a rainbow ribbon in her hair at the Australian Open 10 years ago in response to comments from Court at the time. She said: "You know what, I didn't even remember that. I wore some rainbow hairbands - I think it was on Margaret Court Arena obviously - after she came out and said some pretty inexcusable things in my opinion.

"I just think that if you're passionate about something then you should absolutely stand up for what you believe in. I was happy to do it 10 years ago and I'm happy to do it today."

Drag queens, pictured here standing beside a rainbow Melbourne sign on Pride Day at the Australian Open.
Drag queens stand beside a rainbow Melbourne sign on Pride Day at the Australian Open. (Photo by James D. Morgan/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

Tennis legends John McEnroe and Martina Navratilova famously displayed a sign on Margaret Court Arena in 2019 that said 'Evonne Goolagong Arena'. They were issued a warning by Tennis Australia at the time but won widespread praise for taking a stand.

Among Court's more infamous comments she has stated “it’s very sad for children to be exposed to homosexuality”, while also praising South Africa's Apartheid regime in the past. She previously accused 'lesbians' of ruining women’s tennis, while also boycotting Qantas due to the airline's support of gay marriage.

Opinion remains heavily divided about Court's place in tennis and whether or not she should be recognised at the Australian Open every year.

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