Margaret Court Arena debate doesn’t detract from the tennis on Chinan Open day one

On one of the walls outside Margaret Court Arena is a cabinet dedicated to the lady the stadium is named after.
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In it are some of her trophies and plates, plus her old Dunlop Volley tennis bag, white playing dress and cardigan emblazoned with a kangaroo.

To the cabinet’s left is a bronze wall-mounted sculpture of Court. She is lunging for a ball with her racquet in an outstretched right hand.

That is Margaret Court the tennis player – 24-time grand slam winner (11 in the Open era), one-time calendar year Grand Slam winner (1970) and four-time Fed Cup winner.

It is an extraordinary, historic record, and despite calls from former rival Billie Jean-King for Court’s named to be stripped from her Melbourne Park arena, there are die hard tennis fans who want the name to remain.

The Margaret Court Arena name remains under scrutiny because of Court’s anti-LGBTQI stance. For example, in 2017 the Albury-born Pentacostal minister, who opposed same-sex marriage, told a Christian radio station that transgender children were influenced by the devil. Court’s husband, Barrymore Court, claims his wife never made those comments.

“I don’t agree with her views,” n Open regular Judy Jamieson from Nunawading said. “Whether you agree with her opinion or not, it’s too bad. The court was named after her because of her tennis abilities. Not her opinion same-sex marriage.”

Another tennis fan who does not agree with Court, Kieran McNamara from Hawthorn, echoed Ms Jamieson.

“People get distracted by the personal views and sportspeople providing political views … leave the tennis stadium as remembering her achievements as an athlete,” Mr McNamara said.

If you asked any of the 47,867 fans at Melbourne Park on day one for their opinion on Margaret Court Arena’s name, they were forthcoming with an answer, but it was far from the topic on everyone’s mind.

Tennis – despite the distraction of social debates and many food trucks, bars and sponsorship tents vying for the fan’s dollar – was still priority No.1 on Monday.

There were crowds five deep at 19-time grand slam winner Roger Federer’s afternoon outside court practice hit. People were sitting on each other’s shoulders and perched in trees to get a view of the sporting legend, who begins his title defence on Tuesday.

It’s a different story when it comes to tennis royalty on the women’s side. In a shock to everyone at Melbourne Park one of tennis’ most legendary families won’t be represented at the n Open past the first day, as Venus Williams lost in straight sets to the un-seeded Belinda Bencic.

Venus was the fifth seed and last year’s finalist, while her sister Serena, last year’s champion, withdrew from the tournament because of a lack of fitness after giving birth. Venus and Serena have only missed four n Opens each since their first in 1997 and 1998 respectively. Venus has won twice and Serena seven times, so it will be unusual without them over the next fortnight.

South Africa’s 2017 US Open semi-finalist and No.11 seed Kevin Anderson was the day session’s shock male loser, going down in a five sets to unseeded Kyle Edmund of Britain.

And yes, in case you were wondering, The Fanatics – now known as ‘We The People’ – were back. They’d have been happiest with the afternoon win by ‘s Matthew Ebden over 16th seed John Isner ,who was one of nine Americans that lost during the day. They’d have been saddest with Sam Stosur’s three-set loss after she had a match point in the second set.

Like Swedish fans in the ’90s and early 2000s Croatian fans have become one of the most well-supported outside of those wearing green and gold. They provided colour and sound for their hero No.6 seed Marin Cilic and his compatriots Borna Coric, Jana Fett and Ivo Karlovic.