Navratilova sorry for protocol breach, not for Court protest

Sports

Former Australian Open champion Margaret Court holds up the women’s Australian Open trophy, the Daphne Ackhurst Memorial Cup, as her 50th anniversary of her Grand Slam is celebrated at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Monday, Jan. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Martina Navratilova has apologized after getting caught on a technicality in her on-court campaign to have a stadium renamed at the Australian Open.

The 18-time major winner didn’t step back from the key message, though. Navratilova has regularly objected to Margaret Court Arena being named to honor the Australian tennis great who has become a religious minister and made controversial comments about homosexuality and gay-marriage.

Navratilova and John McEnroe tried to take their push to have the stadium renamed Evonne Goolagong Arena, in honor of Australia’s seven-time Grand Slam titlist, to the people. Navratilova climbed up the umpire’s chair at the stadium on Tuesday and started to address spectators, but organizers cut off the live feed. Navratilova and McEnroe then unfurled a banner reading “Evonne Goolagong Arena” as they walked on the court.

It could have cost the pair their credentials. Navratilova and McEnroe are working as TV analysts at Melbourne Park, and were made aware of the terms and conditions of their accreditation.

Without naming them by name, Australian Open organizers issued a statement in response to the protest that said while they embraced diversity, they still had regulations and protocols to ensure the integrity of the tournament and “two high-profile guests have breached these protocols.”

Navratilova apologized Wednesday on the Tennis Channel, saying “I got in trouble. I am sorry I broke protocol. I had no idea there was this kind of protocol.”

“Had I known, I would have done it differently,” she added. “But I would still have tried to make my statement which is, basically, you name buildings after not what people just did on the court, but also off the court. The whole body of work.

“I’ve said my piece. I do apologize for breaking control. Did not mean to do that.”

McEnroe issued an apology via ESPN for breaking protocol.

“Admittedly, I was never one to study the rule book carefully or for that matter, even at times abide by the rules,” he said. “In this case, I was not aware of the Tennis Australia rules and protocols for issuing credentials. For that I apologize to Tennis Australia.”

Court won a record 24 major singles titles, and had the 50th anniversary of her calendar-year Grand Slam recognized when she received a trophy on Rod Laver Arena this week.

McEnroe’s brother, Patrick, is also an ESPN commentator and said this on the broadcast Wednesday: “Sometimes, to make a statement, rules of protocol might have to be bended just a bit.”

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CHAMPION’S CHECK

Alexander Zverev is getting closer to winning a Grand Slam title for the first time. Pull that off, though, and he won’t get to put a cent in the bank.

That’s because the No. 7-seeded Zverev vowed after his opening victory at the Australian Open that if he were to lift the trophy, he would give the entire champion’s check to relief efforts for the wildfires that have been destroying parts of the tournament’s host country.

“Easy to say in the first round, right?” he joked Wednesday after reaching his first major semifinal by beating Stan Wawrinka.

That would mean a donation of about 4 million Australian dollars — or about $2.85 million.

And the 22-year-old German player said he would remain true to his word.

“Yes, it’s still true. I hope I can make it happen. I made the people of Australia a promise. I will keep that promise,” he told the crowd on Rod Laver Arena. “For me, right now, 4 million Australian dollars would be nice — very, very nice — I could buy myself a few cars or something. But there’s people who need it for their homes. For rebuilding wildlife, rebuilding houses, rebuilding the life they once knew. It’s much more important that they get that money.”

Zverev said his parents had taught him that money should be used for good.

“My parents grew up in the Soviet Union — my dad would make money outside the country, but he would have to give it away when he was getting into the country,” he told a news conference. “Funny enough, for them, you know, where they never had any money, you would think that now maybe we have some, you want to keep it all for yourself. But they always said that money is something that should cause change in the world and should be put into a good thing, not keep it in a bank account and do nothing with it.”

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DOUBLES DECIDERS

Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic have reached their third consecutive Australian Open women’s doubles final with a 7-5, 6-2 win over seventh-seeded Chan Hao-ching and Latisha Chan of Taiwan.

Babos and Mladenovic, now the No. 2 seeds, won the Australian title in 2018 and lost the final here last year. They’ll next meet top-seeded Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova, who beat fourth-seeded Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova 6-2, 6-3 in the other semifinal.

Babos and Mladenovic won the French Open doubles title last year, and Hsieh and Strycova won Wimbledon.

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More AP Tennis: https://apnews.com/apf-Tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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AP Tennis Writer Howard Fendrich contributed to this report.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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