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Billie Jean King calls for renaming of Margaret Court Arena

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Billie Jean King and Margaret Court battled for the biggest prizes in tennis during the 1960s and 1970s. AAP Image via Reuters/Julian Smith

Former world number one Billie Jean King called on Friday for the Australian Open's Margaret Court Arena to be renamed following Court's strident comments on gay and transgender communitiies.


The 75-year-old tennis legend said last year she would avoid using Qantas airline due to its support of same-sex marriage, which became law in Australia in December following a referendum.

She later claimed tennis was full of lesbians and that transgender children were the result of a plot to brainwash the minds of young people.

Court's views were attacked by a host of players including gay former star Martina Navratilova, who called Court a homophobe.

Billie Jean changes mind

King, who is also gay, said she originally lobbied for Court to be honoured by tournament organisers when they renamed the stadium in 2003.

But she said she could no could longer support the second showcourt bearing Court's name because of her views on sexuality.

"I was a proponent of hers, trying to get her to the best possible court," King said. "She won more than everybody else.

"When Rod Laver got given the arena, I said: 'What are you going to do for Margaret?'

"But I think it's its really important, if you're going to have your name on anything, that you're hospitable, inclusive, you're opening arms to everyone that comes to a public facility."

Court keeps crabbing

King has been named by Tennis Australia as the Australian Open "woman of the year" on the 50th anniversary of her first title in Australia.

She said she would refuse to play on the arena if she were appearing at next week's tournament.

Court, who lives on the west coast of Australian in Perth, says she will not attend this month's tournament.

"I don't run from things, I face them," she told Melbourne's Herald Sun newspaper. "I decided not to come across this year and do more crabbing."

She said she would instead head to her holiday home and watch the tennis on television, while indulging her hobby of catching crabs.