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Tennis | Australian Open

No room for 'hate' in tennis - Stephens



US Open champion Sloane Stephens on Saturday weighed into the simmering row about Melbourne Park's Margaret Court Arena, saying there shouldn't "be hate towards anyone" ahead of next week's Australian Open.

American legend Billie Jean King, on the 50th anniversary of her first Grand Slam title Down Under, called Friday for the show court to be renamed because of the Australian tennis great's divisive views on sexuality and gender equality.

Court, now a church pastor, last year railed against same-sex marriage, claimed tennis was "full of lesbians" and that transgender children were the result of a Nazi-style "plot" to brainwash young people.

"I respect what Billie Jean said," Stephens told reporters.

"Well, I respect all of my fellow players, colleagues, their lifestyles. I don't think there should be hate towards anyone," added the American.

"I love ... everyone that I play with on a day-to-day basis. I support whatever it is they want to do and how they want to live."

King said she would refuse to play on the arena if she was appearing at next week's tournament, but she wouldn't counsel others to do so.

Instead, she encouraged players to think about the issue and "look inside their heart" before making a decision.

"Well, it's obviously not up to me what court I play on," said the 13th seed Stephens, who won her maiden Grand Slam at Flushing Meadows last year. "I don't make the schedule."

World number two Caroline Wozniacki said: "I'll play on any court that they schedule me on."

Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza said the players' meetings had not discussed a boycott of the arena named after the woman who won an all-time record 24 Grand Slam singles titles.

And top-ranked Simona Halep also quashed any thoughts of a refusal to play. "The tournament decides these things," said the Romanian. "Has nothing to do with me. But if I would be scheduled on Margaret Court, I will play on Margaret Court."

British number one and ninth seed Johanna Konta said she was against Court's views but that was as far as she was prepared to go.

"I don't agree with what Margaret Court said," Konta said. "However, she's entitled to her own opinion. If I'm scheduled to play on Margaret Court, I will go out there and compete."

Court has announced she will not attend this month's tournament, although she denied she was avoiding the tournament after the controversy.

"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."



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