Hamou, Nastase and Court will tennis ever escape the dark ages? | Kevin Mitchell

Tennis players whether past or present need to realise that while everybody is entitled to an opinion these arguments are not about morality but tolerance

It is encouraging and correct that tennis players are prepared to comment on issues from homosexuality to sexual harassment, and occasionally politics. Sport doesnt have to exist in a vacuum. It is not that their opinions matter more than those of everyone else but it is good to know they are not Daleks.

Maybe other sports will follow the example of Andy Murray and others who have spoken out here this week, for instance, about Margaret Courts antediluvian outrage over gay marriage.

As for the hitherto unknown Maxime Hamou, who did not let the presence of a camera restrict his groping of an embarrassed woman trying to interview him, he will have to live with being famous for getting kicked out of a tournament hardly anyone knew he was in until that point. Hamou achieved a career-high ranking of 211 in July 2015, and a lifetime low here this week for winning the Chris Gayle Teenage Hormone Trophy.

Courts puritanical views on homosexuality, meanwhile, hit a different, deeper pitch. They have left a former great player isolated in her own country and in her sport, not unlike Ilie Nastases experience when he let his inner beast loose in Romania last month. Welcome to the 21st century, guys.

If Court has her name removed from the Australian Opens second arena or players take the more radical step of boycotting that stadium it might remind her that we have moved on from the 1950s. And its exactly what should happen. If the players are prepared to condemn her, so should the people who run the game. Dont hold your breath.

She was a phenomenal player, perhaps the greatest in the history of the womens game, and is entitled to her opinions, which are driven by her deep religious beliefs. You will not hear many condemn her for anything she might say or think about religion. This is not about morality; its about tolerance.

Court ought to realise that the cultural and social strictures that made life so oppressive for minorities when she was growing up in a conservative environment were loosened a long time ago. The Australians at the French Open, from Sam Stosur to Nick Kyrgios, are aware of Courts status back there but were prepared to condemn her idiotic attack on their compatriot and friend, Casey Dellacqua, who has two children with her partner, Amanda Judd.

In case you missed it, the issue blew up when an attention-seeker threw a pie in the face of the gay chairman of Qantas, because of his support of same-sex marriage, and Courts subsequent decision to boycott the airline. Now some players want to boycott her and her arena in Melbourne.

Ashleigh Barthy, Dellacquas doubles partner, put it well: Everybody is entitled to their views but when there was a personal attack on someone so close to me, I dont think thats right. It was time for us to stand up, not only for Case but for everyone.

Murray, who has a reputation for speaking his mind on matters inside and outside tennis, said: I dont see why anyone has a problem with two people who love each other getting married if its two men, two women, thats great. I dont see why it should matter. Its not anyone elses business. Everyone should have the same rights.

He is not so sure about boycotting Margaret Court Arena but sensibly suggests that, if players wanted to make a statement, they should do so before the tournament.

Tennis is a peculiar travelling circus, a year-round, never-ending show where the stars are expected to perform on demand. Some times the performing seals break free and reveal themselves to be just like the rest of us, for good or bad. They dont always get it right, but at least they are opening up.

Novak Djokovic has invited admiration as well as behind-the-hand guffawing over his now-established habit of cupping his hands towards the crowd in a gesture of love and respect. Some find it mawkish and overblown, but at least he is expressing himself.

As Greg Rusedski observed about Djokovics new mentor, Andre Agassi, Hes someone concerned as much about life as about tennis. Rusedski reckoned Agassi could be good for Djokovic, who has been searching for personal contentment since he won this title a year ago.

Tennis is their life, but their life is not solely tennis.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/may/31/hamou-nastase-court-tennis-dark-ages