Alison van Uytvanck and Greet Minnen call for more LGBT visibility in tennis
Doubles pair and girlfriends Van Uytvanck and Minnen would like to see more allies saying "it's OK" to be gay and out
By Max Mathews
Last Updated: 04/07/19 3:52pm
Belgian tennis players Alison van Uytvanck and Greet Minnen believe greater LGBT visibility in the sport would help others to be themselves.
Van Uytvanck and Minnen beat English duo Katie Swan and Freya Christie 7-5 6-2 in the Wimbledon first round on Wednesday, and are believed to be the first out gay couple to play doubles together at the tournament. They have been in a relationship off the court for the last three years.
After their win, both players urged those in the sport to be active allies who are more vocal in their support for LGBT people, especially given there are no professional male players who are out.
The 25-year-old van Uytvanck said: "Our coming out was easier than it would be for men.
"We would like to see more people coming forward and saying 'it's OK'. People would have more confidence.
"There must be some gay men actively playing out there. Personally, if I were a man, it would be more difficult to come out because of the stereotypes."
I hope we can be people to look up to, and role models for people to come out.
Alison van Uytvanck
While tennis trailblazers Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova and Amelie Mauresmo all came out publicly while playing, there is only known to have been one gay man playing on the professional circuit since the Second World War - American Brian Vahaly, who came out in 2017, 10 years after retiring.
Although Van Uytvanck states that she and Minnen have only experienced positive reactions and improved sponsorship deals since coming out, she appreciates gay men in tennis may fear intolerance and the possibility of losing sponsorship deals, while Vahaly has said previously that homophobic comments were part of locker-room culture while he was playing.
Minnen, 21, is thankful times have changed radically since King was sued in 1981 by her partner Marilyn Bennett, leading to King losing her endorsements, but says there are still many parts of the world where she feels she must hide her sexuality.
She said: "I don't feel homophobia in the locker room at all. Maybe outside. In England, it is fine, but there are some countries where you need to be careful.
"For sure we are not going to hold hands if we are in Egypt or somewhere. When you are in the tournament it is fine, but they don't accept it everywhere."
Van Uytvanck, who lost 6-1 6-3 in the singles to world number one Ashleigh Barty on Thursday morning, is already planning with Minnen for marriage and children, and hopes their openness will encourage confidence in others to be visible.
Van Uytvanck concluded: "I hope we can be people to look up to, and role models for people to come out."