Margaret Court has urged Tennis Australia to "sit and talk with me'' ahead of the 50th anniversary of her grand slam year, saying she won't return to Melbourne Park unless she is formally welcomed back and her career achievement properly recognised.
Tennis Australia, which earlier this year feted Rod Laver for his half-century grand slam anniversary, is torn over how to commemorate its greatest ever player, whose opposition to homosexuality and gay marriage has made her a polarising figure among contemporary players and influential women such as Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova.
Nobody has spoken to me directly about it. I think they would rather not confront it.Margaret Court
Court's presence at January's Australian Open would kindle the bitter debate over whether her name should remain on one of the tournament's main venues and likely result in tennis fans being picketed by gay rights protesters.
Court, a keen follower of tennis and, until recent years, a regular attendee at the Australian Open, has not stepped foot onto Melbourne Park since 2017, when her religious-based opposition to same-sex marriage became a flashpoint in the marriage equality campaign.
She told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald she had received no word from Tennis Australia on whether it planned to celebrate her grand slam jubilee and accused prominent players of "pulling strings" to have her name stripped from the Margaret Court Arena.
"I think Tennis Australia should sit and talk with me," she said. "They have never phoned me. Nobody has spoken to me directly about it. I think they would rather not confront it.
"They brought Rod in from America. If they think I'm just going to turn up, I don't think that is right. I think I should be invited. I would hope they would pay my way to come like they paid for his, and honour me. If they are not going to do that, I don't really want to come."
Tennis Australia's dilemma will be shared by the hosts of the other three major tournaments, who all celebrated Laver's 1969 grand slam at events this year. The US Open site is named after Billie Jean King, Court's great rival who has called for her name to be stripped from the Margaret Court Arena.
Two years after same-sex marriage was endorsed by a national plebiscite and enshrined in federal law, Court remains steadfast in her belief that only a man and woman can marry. She said this should have no bearing on her tennis legacy or the 2003 decision to name a Melbourne Park show court in her honour.
"I don't feel any of that should be brought into my tennis career," she said. "It was a different phase of my life from where I am now and if we are not big enough as a nation and a game to face those challenges there is something wrong.
"Many gay people think my name shouldn't come off it. There are many gay people who don't believe in gay marriage. They know that marriage is between a man and a woman and they will say that. Then you get the radicals coming at me, you have got these minority groups in every area now having a say and taking on nations and taking on big companies."
She said he had no ill will towards gays and lesbians and that, unlike dumped Wallabies player Israel Folau, had never condemned them to hell. "I have gay people in the church. It is nothing against the people themselves, I just said what the Bible said. If I can't say what the Bible says, there is something wrong."
A spokeswoman for Tennis Australia said the organisation was "in the process of working through" how Court's milestone would be recognised. She declined to say whether any consideration had been given to changing the name of Margaret Court Arena.
"As previously stated, Tennis Australia recognises the tennis achievements of Margaret Court, although her views do not align with our values of equality, diversity and inclusion."
Tennis Australia was this year recognised at the Pride in Sport Awards for its work in LGBTI inclusion.
Margaret Smith Court is the most successful player in the history of tennis, winning an unsurpassed 24 major singles titles and 64 major titles. In 1970 she dominated the nascent women's tour, winning all four majors, a feat known as the grand slam.
In the half-century since, Steffi Graf is the only player, man or woman, to complete a grand slam.
Reverend Court is the spiritual leader of Victory Life, a Perth-based Pentecostal movement she established 25 years ago. She promotes traditional notions of family and marriage and believes homosexuality is a choice rather than inherent. She has declared the sport of tennis "full of lesbians".
Barry Court, Court's husband, is the son of Sir Charles Court, the most formidable conservative figure in West Australian history. Any move by Tennis Australia to strip the Court name from the Margaret Court Arena would be fiercely opposed by the Morrison government and open a damaging front in the nation's culture wars.
Anna Brown, the chief executive of the LGBTI lobby group Equality Australia, said Court was an exceptional tennis player, but her name had no place on a public stadium.
"Keeping Court's name on the stadium sends completely the wrong message about the values that we hold as a society," Ms Brown said. "When Court uses her public platform gained through her tennis prowess to insult the LGBTI community, it shows we can't separate Court the athlete from her harmful views."
Ms Brown would like to see the stadium renamed Equality Arena.
Australian Family Association Victorian president Chris McCormack said the removal of Court's name from her arena would be a further attempt to "obliterate" history which does not fit politically correct sensitivities. Court is a patron of the association.
"The stadium should stay in her name,'' Mr McCormack said.
"She is the all-time great. She has won more grand slams than anyone on Earth, male or female. Because she has got an opinion we don't agree with we are going to wipe her from history and have someone who is more PC."
The Margaret Court Arena is owned by the state, managed by the Melbourne and Olympic Parks Trust and leased by Tennis Australia every summer. Although the naming rights belong to Tennis Australia, any decision to change the name would involve the Victorian government and Melbourne and Olympic Parks Trust.