The gay tennis players smashing down barriers at the Australian Open 2024
The Australian Open 2023 officially kicked off in Melbourne, Australia on Sunday (14 January) and there are a handful of out gay tennis players offering some vital rainbow LGBTQ+ representation at one of the first grand slam of the season.
Since the days of trailblazing gay Grand Slam champions Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova, women’s tennis has long provided some of the biggest LGBTQ+ names in sport – and there are currently several players Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) tour carrying that torch for a new generation.
However, the men’s Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) tour continues to lag way behind the women’s game: There are currently no out gay players on the men’s tour and no professional male tennis player has come out publicly in the Open Era while still playing the game.
American former world number 57 Brian Vahaly came out publicly as gay in 2017, a decade after retiring from the sport, and shed light on some of the barriers faced by gay male players.
“I heard homophobic comments all the time in the locker room – to my face, behind my back. That was just a part of the culture”, he told The Telegraph in 2018.
In 2022, American men’s top 10 player and former Wimbledon quarter-finalist Taylor said he believed an out gay male tennis player would be “accepted” on the tour, but as the US Open rolls around for another year, the wait goes on.
Some strides are being made, however: On Thursday (31 August), the US Open’s LGBTQ+ Pride day, Open Pride, will return for a third successive year to champion inclusion in the sport and celebrate LGBTQ+ fans and players alike.
As we wait to find out whether Novak Djokovic and Aryna Sabalenka can defend their titles, here’s a run-down of the out gay women’s tennis players to look out for in the Australian Open 2024 main draws – as well as a few others who aren’t making an appearance at the final grand slam of the year, but are still representing for the LGBTQ+ community on the tour.
Out gay tennis players competing at the Australian Open 2024
Russian tennis star Daria Kasatkina is seeded 14th at the Australian Open 2024 and became the highest-profile out gay tennis star on the WTA tour when she came out publicly in July 2022.
The 26-year-old, who has a career-high ranking of number eight and reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon in 2018, confirmed her relationship with Olympic figure skater Natalia Zabiiako via Instagram.
In the year since, Kasatkina has been an outspoken critic of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and anti-gay political culture – even if it’s come at great personal cost.
“It’s unsafe for me now, with the regime we have. As a gay person who opposes the war, it’s not possible to go back,” she told The Times in July 2023. “But I don’t regret it even 1 per cent.”
She went on: “When the war started and everything turned to hell, I felt very overwhelmed and I just decided, “F*** it all”. I couldn’t hide any more. I wanted to say my position on the war and my [sexuality], which was tough, coming from a country where being gay is not accepted, but it felt like I had a backpack of stones on my shoulders and I just had to throw it off.
“Afterwards, I faced a few consequences, but the only thing that worried me was my parents, and they were fine. They are proud of me.”
Argentinian tennis player Nadia Podoroska is unseeded at the Austalian Open 2024 and came out publicly in October 2022.
In an Instagram post, the former French Open semi-finalist – who has been ranked as high as number 36 in the world – confirmed her relationship with fellow Argentinian tennis player Guillermina Naya.
Shared on Naya’s 26th birthday, Podoroska’s post consisted of images of the couple hugging and kissing, with the caption: “Today I celebrate you from afar, but I feel you by my side every day of my life.”
Podoroska was congratulated on her announcement by former women’s world number one and LGBTQ+ trailblazer Billie Jean King, who tweeted: “Living authentically takes such courage, but is always worth it.”
Belgium’s Greet Minnen, who is unseeded at the Australian Open 2024, was in a high-profile relationship with fellow Belgian tennis star Alison Van Uytvanck until late 2021.
In 2019, Minnen and Van Uytvanck became the first same-sex couple in history to play doubles together at Wimbledon, reaching the second round.
Minnen’s public coming out took place at the tournament the year before, when Van Uytvanck rushed over to kiss her in the stands after defeating then-defending champion Garbiñe Muguruza in the second round.
Minnen and Van Uytvanck announced their engagement in December 2020 before going their separate ways the following year.
Emina Bektas is a 30-year-old American player who is currently in a relationship with British player Tara Moore.
Bektas broke into the world’s top 100 for the first time in 2023, becoming the fourth oldest top 100 debutant in WTA history. She lost in the first round of the Australian Open 2024 on day one of the tournament.
Dutch doubles specialist Demi Schuurs has reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open as well as the quarter-finals of Wimbledon and the US Open in doubles.
She’ll be playing in the women’s doubles at the Australian Open 2024 alongside Brazilian partner Luisa Stefani, with the pair seeded 9th.
Schuurs came out as gay as a teenager and has stated her desire to be a role model for young LGBTQ+ people.
She told the WTA in 2020: “I think that’s really nice to be able to support younger fans who may be going through the same things I did. I remember the feelings I had when I came out, so I want to help younger people understand that they should be how they want to be, and show what they want to show.
“You only live once, so you have to be happy and don’t need to stress about being gay or not.
Other gay tennis players on the WTA tour who aren’t playing at the US Open this year
Alison Van Uytvanck
Belgian former world number 37 Alison Van Uytvanck has been one of the most vocal champions of LGBTQ+ visibility on the WTA tour since her relationship with countrywoman Greet Minnen was thrust into the spotlight in 2018.
The former French Open quarter-finalist, who is now engaged to Emilie Vermeiren after splitting with Minnen in late 2021, told The Guardian in 2019 that she would like to see more support for LGBTQ+ tennis players.
“I think people would have more confidence”, she said at the time. “That would be something good, men would appreciate that. More people would come out – it would help to make it easier.”
Argentina’s Guillermina Naya achieved a career-high ranking of 533 in 2020 and has won two titles on the ITF Cicuit – the tier of tournaments below the WTA tour.
Naya’s relationship with Argentinian player Nadia Podoroska was confirmed by Podoroska in October 2022.
Out gay British player Tara Moore is a former world 145 player in singles and former top 100 player in doubles.
Moore is currently in a relationship with American player and former doubles partner Emina Bektas. She was previously engaged to Swiss player Conny Perrin.
Swiss player Conny Perrin has been ranked as high as 134 in the world and was previously engaged to British player Tara Moore.
In 2017, Perrin told the New York Times that dating a fellow tennis player had benefits, saying: “It’s different when you date someone else who doesn’t really understand tennis and all the traveling and stuff like that.
“We understand that of course we need to travel sometimes apart.”
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