TA Press Release, December 1, 2019
In 1970 Margaret Court won the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam tournament of the year, thus starting what would become an historic year in tennis.
As the year went on, Margaret collected more trophies, including the women’s singles at Roland Garros, at Wimbledon, and finally, the US Open, to complete the Grand Slam – a feat matched by only two other women, Maureen Connolly in 1953, and more recently by Steffi Graf in 1988.
To mark this historic occasion, Margaret Court, along with her family and friends, has been invited to Australian Open 2020 as a special guest, and to participate in a significant program of events throughout the tournament.
“I’m looking forward to celebrating the 50th anniversary of winning the Grand Slam with my family and friends at the Australian Open,” Margaret 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.”
In June this year Tennis Australia’s production team spent a day with Margaret at home in Perth, filming for a mini documentary which will be released during the event.
During filming Margaret shared precious memories of her time on the tour, and intimate reflections on her unmatched achievements. 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 Margaret’s achievements in 1970.
Other plans for the 50th anniversary include in-stadium entertainment that takes the audience back to 1970 and Margaret’s historic win, and the annual Australian Open Legends Lunch.
Further events and opportunities, as is usual at the Australian Open, will be announced during the tournament.
Tennis Australia respects Margaret’s unmatched tennis career and welcomes her to the Australian Open, particularly in this milestone anniversary year.
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.
In 2017 the Australian Open launched #Open4All, a major diversity and inclusion initiative, designed to showcase the many inclusive opportunities in tennis.
#Open4All encompasses events such as the Glam Slam, an international LGBTQI tournament that has been held at the Australian Open for the past few years, and will be back for AO 2020. We have also hosted events for the National Inclusion Conference and have ongoing working relationships with the Pride in Sport Index and Stand Up Events.
A full program of #Open4All events at Australian Open 2020 will be released in the coming weeks.
The Australian Open is for everyone, and we look forward to welcoming the world to Melbourne in January 2020.
Open letter from Tennis Australia:
Given the interest in the 50th anniversary of tennis legend Margaret Court’s Grand Slam, we felt it would be worthwhile to share the guiding principles we use at Tennis Australia in acknowledging not just our champions, but everyone who plays our sport.
Tennis Australia recognises the champions in our sport as a matter of course, whether it be stadium names, naming of parks, statues around the country and trophies and awards during a player’s career. We celebrate sporting heroes who inspire and motivate people through the generations, and who are lauded and respected widely by their peers and the broader community.
As with other great sports in this country and elsewhere, it is common practice to draw a distinction between recognising champions and celebrating heroes, and it is an important distinction. Australia is fortunate that Margaret Court’s extraordinary playing achievements form part of our national tennis history.
Naturally, we will be recognising Margaret and her incredible tennis record, and contrary to many reports, there is no plan to ‘rewrite history’. As she is aware, planning has been in the works for some time, with interviews and filming having taken place in her home in June this year, along with other opportunities which will be announced closer to the time.
Margaret and her family have been invited to the Australian Open in January. Her outstanding playing career is her tennis legacy and clearly worthy of recognition. We will continue to communicate with Margaret, as we have for many years, regarding events, our recognition of her achievement, our sport and its culture.
However, the philosophy and culture of our sport goes deeper than winning and setting records. We seek to foster a sport that is inclusive and welcoming of everyone. We all bear some responsibility for creating a safe and inclusive society. As a sport, tennis is unwavering in playing our part. As we have often communicated to Margaret, we respect that everyone has a right to an opinion – and a right to express it. Equally, we all share an obligation that while living our lives freely, we do not harm others, and we understand that there are consequences to our words. Publicly stated views of intolerance and demeaning language about others can have enormous impact, and are particularly hurtful and harmful to those who believe they are targeted. We have a big responsibility as a sport to play a leadership role in supporting an inclusive community, and respecting the rights of all Australians, whether or not they play our great sport.
Similarly, we believe any public figure has a big responsibility to ensure their views are expressed in a way that demonstrates respect and tolerance, and does not cause harm to, or degrade others. As a sport, tennis is unwavering in playing our part to ensure an inclusive society. We cannot condone views that fracture our incredible tennis community, nor indeed, the wider community. It is with all of this in mind that we will continue to promote and celebrate inclusiveness and diversity. We are vocal and proud of our efforts to welcome all sections of our community to all levels of our sport.
The tennis court and club should be a place of fun and comfort to everyone, where people from all walks of life get to know each other without fear of judgement or harassment. Inclusivity is at the very core of what we do and that also involves creating an environment where people feel comfortable to be themselves and live their lives as they see fit without causing harm to others.
We look forward to seeing everyone during the summer.