Tag Archives: Australian Open

Navratilova holds court at Australian Open

Martina Navratilova never shirked a challenge in her glittering tennis career, and she isn’t shy about giving an opinion either.

The winner of 167 singles titles and one of the greatest players faced a news conference at the Australian Open on Monday and addressed issues ranging from Margaret Court’s criticism of same-gender marriage to prize money at Grand Slam tournaments.

Eyebrows were raised when Navratilova’s first match in the legends’ doubles Sunday was scheduled for Margaret Court Arena, AP reported. The 55-year-old Navratilova didn’t even consider a boycott. Instead, the longtime advocate for gay rights wore a rainbow-colored patch on her sleeve as she and Nicole Bradtke beat Martina Hingis and Iva Majoli.

The 69-year-old Court, an 11-time Australian Open champion who is now a Christian pastor, caused a stir before this year’s tournament when she told media in Western Australia that “politically correct education has masterfully escorted homosexuality out from behind closed doors, into the community openly and now is aggressively demanding marriage rights that are not theirs to take.”

Navratilova was gracious when talking about the venue and scheduling of her opening match.

“Playing on Margaret Court Arena, it’s an honor, as always, to be on that court,” Navratilova said. “You know, it’s not a personal issue. Clearly Margaret Court’s views that she has expressed on same sex marriage, I think are outdated.

“But it’s not about any one person. It’s not about religious rights, it’s about human rights. It’s a secular view, not a religious view.”

Navratilova said she hadn’t spoken to Court for years.

“She was all about Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. She repeated that about four or five times, so I just felt I couldn’t get through to her,” Navratilova said. “Maybe she thought she could get through to me.”

In a career spanning 33 years, Navratilova won 167 titles in singles, and 177 in doubles. She won the first of her 18 Grand Slam singles titles at Wimbledon in 1978 to claim the top ranking for the first of a total of 332 weeks.

She refuses to criticize Caroline Wozniacki, who has been No. 1 since October 2010 but hasn’t won a major and reached her only Grand Slam final at the U.S. Open in 2009.

A system that doesn’t place enough importance on the quality of opponents a player has beaten is to blame, according to Navratilova, who believes Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova had a claim to be considered the true No. 1.

“It weighs too much on quantity and not enough on quality,” Navratilova said of the points-based rankings system. “They both get to a semis and one player beats No. 1 player and No. 3 player to get to the semis, and the other one gets qualifiers and they get the same amount of points. It doesn’t make any sense.”

Navratilova has spoken to the WTA, which runs the women’s tour, but doesn’t know if any officials are listening.

“Maybe they will hear it now,” she said. “But I asked are they changing the system, and they have no intention to. I think it’s a mistake.”

Navratilova’s next conversation might be with Grand Slam tournament organizers over the vexed issue of prize money.

The subject came to light on the eve of the Australian Open following a meeting of the men’s players. Many of them believe that prize money has not increased in line with growing profits at the four majors – and some are prepared to go as far as striking to make their point.

“I think the Grand Slams are making a lot more than they’re sharing with the players. I think that’s a fact,” Navratilova said. “When the players try to talk to them, the Grand Slams are like, ‘Oh, well. Get lost. Too bad.’

“If the men and women got together I think the Grand Slams would listen. The players made the slams big and the slams made the players big. It’s a very symbiotic relationship, but the slams are ruling the roost. They dictate everything to the players.”

Multimillionaire players complaining about how much they earn doesn’t often garner much sympathy from fans, but Navratilova says the point is still valid.

“Compared to what a teacher is making, we are grossly overpaid,” she said. “Compared to what the slams are netting, they are underpaid.”

Prize money has come a long way since Navratilova’s day though.

“I think I won $6,000 when I got to the finals here in ’74,” she said. “Which I needed to make so I could pay the airline ticket back to the States.”

The men’s and women’s champions at the Australian Open will each receive $2.4 million in prize money, with the losing finalists getting $1.2 million. The 64 men and 64 women who lost in the first round of singles received $21,800.

Source: AP

Billie Jean King disagrees with Court on marriage

Tennis legend Billie Jean King, observing the Australian Open matches and controversy from California, said on Jan. 17 that she opposed former Australian tennis star Margaret Court’s views on same-sex marriage.

King, in an interview with the Desert Sun in California, said, “I totally respect her opinion, but I don’t agree with her at all. We have a rising problem with homophobia globally. This is about civil rights. It’s about equality, having equal opportunities and rights. Everyone gets too wigged out on it. I guess because it’s sexual, people get funny. But it’s just about equal rights. That’s all it is. And I don’t know what they’re trying to make it into. It’s just equal rights.”

King was in the Palm Springs area for a Health Matters conference.

Court, who retired from tennis years ago and is now a pastor, has generated headlines recently for statements against marriage equality.

She said, in advance of this week’s Australian Open, “Politically correct education has masterfully escorted homosexuality out from behind closed doors, into the community openly and now is aggressively demanding marriage rights that is not theirs to take.”

She called gay and lesbian relationships “alternative, unhealthy, unnatural unions” and same-sex sex “abominable.”

Court’s remarks prompted a Facebook-driven campaign to spur protests at the open.

King and Court played two Australian Open finals – in 1968 and 1969. Court won in 1969 and King won in 1968.

Activists showing no love for Court at Australian Open

Nearly 40 years after she won the last of her 11 Australian Open singles titles, Margaret Court is still creating news at Melbourne Park. This time, though, the now Christian pastor has sparked controversy over her anti-gay comments.

The AP reported that Court has claimed homosexuality has tarnished women’s tennis and she has been vocal in her opposition to gay marriage, opinions which have put her offside with former WTA tour stars Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King.

The issue has helped create a Facebook group, “Rainbow Flags Over Margaret Court Arena,” which is urging spectators to display rainbow-colored gay Pride banners at the showcourt during the Australian Open, which starts today.

Rennae Stubbs, an Australian who has won four Grand Slam doubles titles, said she supports activists who might show their support for gay rights at Margaret Court Arena.

“Margaret has said her feelings and it’s public, and it has leverage,” said Stubbs, who has been open about her orientation. “So I think this is the only way the people feel that they can be heard, through a sign of solidarity. As long as it (a protest) is done tastefully, that’s the most important thing for me.”

Court, 69, recently told local media in Perth, Western Australia, where she now lives that “politically correct education has masterfully escorted homosexuality out from behind closed doors, into the community openly and now is aggressively demanding marriage rights that are not theirs to take.”

“The fact that the homosexual cry is, ‘We can’t help it, as we were born this way,’ as the cause behind their own personal choice is cause for concern,” added Court, who won her last Australian Open title in 1973.

Navratilova told TennisChannel.com that “seems to me a lot of people have evolved, as has the Bible. Unfortunately, Margaret Court has not … her myopic view is truly frightening as well as damaging to the thousands of children already living in same-gender families.”

Kerryn Phelps, former president of the Australian Medical Association and one of Australia’s most influential gay spokeswomen, has called on the Victoria state government and Tennis Australia to drop Court’s name from the 6,000-seat show court arena named in her honor.

“Time to rename Margaret Court Arena,” Phelps tweeted.

Tennis Australia said in a statement that although it respects Court’s playing record as “second to none … her personal views are her own, and are definitely not shared by Tennis Australia.”

“Like the WTA, we believe that everyone should be treated equally and fairly … TA does not support any view that contravenes these basic human rights.”

Source: AP