Next year marks five decades since Margret Court won all four major tennis tournaments in 1970, but the body governing the sport has found itself in a tricky situation regarding how to celebrate the anniversary of her Grand Slam.

While her achievements on the court are undeniable, the 77-year-old has been the subject of significant criticism in recent years, thanks to her stance against marriage equality, and her conviction that same-sex couples should not be allowed to wed.

It seems that Tennis Australia has decided to play both sides of the fence (or the net, I guess), inviting Margret Court to attend next year’s Australian Open as a special guest, while distancing itself from her views on marriage equality.

In a statement announcing her invitation to attend the 2020 tournament, Tennis Australia said that it “respects Margaret’s unmatched tennis career and welcomes her to the Australian Open, particularly in this milestone anniversary year.”

The statement went on to say:

“As often stated, Tennis Australia does not agree with Margaret’s personal views, which have demeaned and hurt many in our community over a number of years. They do not align with our values of equality, diversity and inclusion. Our sport welcomes everyone, no matter what gender, ability, race, religion or sexuality, and we will continue to actively promote inclusion initiatives widely at all levels of the sport.”

It is an unprecedented move on the part of Tennis Australia to both invite Margaret Court to the Australian Open and condemn her for how she has “demeaned and hurt” many in the community, and seems like a way to insulate themselves against any coming backlash.

Court has not attended an Australian Open since 2017, and it remains to be seen whether he will attend next year.

Image: Getty Images / Ben A. Pruchnie