Billie Jean King backs calls to rename Margaret Court Arena in Australia

Billie Jean King backs calls to rename Margaret Court Arena in Australia

Billie Jean King backs calls to rename Margaret Court Arena in Australia

King, a pioneer for equality and diversity in tennis, said she had been a vocal proponent of Court having the second show stadium at the Australian Open named in recognition of her contribution to the sport.

But Court's court has come under fire given her comments about gay marriage and other social issues, with calls to strip her name from the arena growing louder.

King said she would welcome Court's attendance.

King said she originally supported giving the arena Court's name, a move that was made in 2003.

The British number one said: "I don't agree with what Margaret Court said".

King, one of the original professionals in women's tennis and victor of 12 major singles titles in the Open era, said she had regularly met Court at tournaments in the years since they retired after "we grew up together playing each other".

She said: "I think it's really important if you're going to have your name on anything that you're hospitable, you're inclusive, you're open arms to everyone that comes".

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I wish she were here so we could further this discussion.

"I was fine until lately when she said so many derogatory things about my community - I'm a gay woman - about the LBGTIQ community", King said at news conference Friday.

'That really went deep in my heart and soul.

King ended her career with 12 major singles titles.

In 2006, the U.S. Tennis Association named the site of the U.S. Open, located in a public park in NY, the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

King said she would refuse to play on the arena if she was appearing at next week's tournament, but she wouldn't counsel others to do so. "I'm a gay woman; about the LGBTIQ community", she said.

"Maybe it's our community, the LGBTIQ community -people might feel differently".

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Court, 75, who holds the record for most Grand Slam singles titles across the amateur and Open eras, is now a Christian pastor who lives in Perth, Western Australia.

Tiley, who sat beside King as she articulated her objections, said her position was not awkward for the tournament.

Court has announced she will not attend this month's tournament, although she denied she was avoiding the tournament after the controversy.

Australian ace Sam Stosur suggested there was little locker room chatter about the divisive issue.

Her views drew stinging criticism from a host of players including gay former star Martina Navratilova, who called Court a "homophobe" and lashed out at the "sick and dangerous" comments.

"I wouldn't say too many players have spent time thinking about it".

In September, at the Toronto film festival premiere of Battle of the Sexes, a film about the 1973 tennis match between King and former men's champion Bobby Riggs, King said she was disappointed Court had urged a no vote in Australia's marriage equality postal survey. They are not the views of our organization and not the views of our sport.

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