MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – John McEnroe blasted fellow tennis great Margaret Court’s “offensive and homophobic” views on Monday as the Australian Open prepared to mark 50 years since her calendar-year Grand Slam.
The American said Court, 77, was Tennis Australia’s “crazy aunt” and that marking the golden anniversary of her 1970 Grand Slam was a “nightmare” for the governing body.
“There’s only one thing longer than the list of Margaret Court’s list of achievements: it’s her list of offensive and homophobic statements,” McEnroe said in a no-holds-barred video for Eurosport.
“Margaret Court is actually a ventriloquist, using the Bible as a dummy to say whatever she wants,” added the seven-time Grand Slam winner.
She won 24 Grand Slam titles, a record for both men and women, and is one of only five players to achieve a clean sweep of all four majors in the same year.
However, Tennis Australia has taken an equivocal stance after agreeing to mark the anniversary but stressing it “does not agree with Court’s personal views, which have demeaned and hurt many in our community over a number of years”.
Court, now a church pastor and based in Perth, Western Australia, has long attracted controversy over her views on race and homosexuality.
The Australian once praised South Africa’s apartheid system, said “tennis is full of lesbians” and described transgender children as “the work of the devil”.
WTA founder Billie Jean King is one senior figure to call for Melbourne Park’s Margaret Court Arena to be renamed, and fellow legend Martina Navratilova is also a frequent critic.
Court last week said she was being “persecuted” for her beliefs and that many people had voiced support.
“I teach what the Bible says about things and you get persecuted for it,” she told ABC radio.
“But I still believe all that should not come in to 50 years ago, what I did in tennis for my nation.”
McEnroe said he hoped Serena Williams, who has 23 Grand Slam titles, would soon eclipse Court’s record of 24.
“Serena, do me a favour, get two more Grand Slams this year and get to 25 so we can leave Margaret Court and her offensive views in the past, where they both belong,” he said.