Billie Jean King wants Margaret Court Arena renamed

The former rivals in 2016. Pic Getty

Fifteen years agon when an arena at Australia's Melbourne Park was named for the country's 24-time Grand Slam victor Margaret Court, tennis legend and activist Billie Jean King spoke on behalf of honoring the former athlete turned Pentecostal minister for her towering achievements in the sport.

King and Court were rivals during their playing days, during which they won 36 singles Grand Slams between them.

Court is not attending this year's Australian Open, which starts Monday, but has been a regular guest in the past.

"I was really for her to have it", King said.

Court, a born-again Christian and Pentecostal pastor, has said that tennis is "full of lesbians" and that transgender children are "the work of the devil". "It's a public facility".

"These comments about the LGBTIQ community, more so than her stance on marriage equality, are the reason the Arena should be renamed". Maybe because of our community, the LGBTIQ community, people might feel differently.

"If you were talking about indigenous people, Jews or any other people, I can't imagine the public would want to have her name on something", she said.

The former 64-time major victor, who is now a pastor at Victory Life Church in Perth, also once wrote a letter to the West Australian to express sadness that Casey Dellacqua's newborn child would be "deprived of his father".

Over time, King said, Court's comments about gays and lesbians "really went deep in my heart and soul".

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American King's comments follow a report in the New York Times on Thursday in which Martina Navratilova said she would refuse to play on Margaret Court Arena if still competing.

"I was a proponent of hers, trying to get her to the best possible court, ?" When she talked about children of transgenders being from the devil, that put me over the edge.

King drew a contrast between herself and Martina Navratilova, who has been calling for the name to be changed since a year ago, saying she had needed to be "very reflective before I come out and say anything".

The popularly supported legalisation of same-sex marriage through parliament late a year ago could mean protests against that court from the public or players during the 2018 tournament.

"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 added.

Tournament director Craig Tiley said Court had a standing invitation to the season-opening major, and would be welcome in future as she had been in the past.

'Our position hasn't changed, ' he said. Margaret's views are her views, they're not the views of our organisation, they're not the views of our sport.

"They're not the views of our organisation. they're not the views of our sport. [A name change] is up to a broader group of people and not up to one person or organization".

9th July 1973: Margaret Court (nee Smith) of Australia in action at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships.

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