Billie Jean King is one of the most synonymous persons when it comes to sports and most importantly, to equality in sports. She is a former World Number 1 professional tennis player.
Born 73 years ago on November 22 1943, King became an advocate for gender equality and has long been a pioneer for social justice and equality. She has been regarded by many in tennis as one of the all time greatest. She was inducted into the 1987 International Tennis Hall of Fame.
Professional Tennis Accomplishments:
In her professional career that ran from 1959 all the way till 1983 when she retired, she won 39 Grand Slam titles, 12 in singles, 16 in women’s doubles and 11 in mixed doubles; the inaugural WTA Tour Championships; represented and captained (for three years) the United States of America in the Federation Cup as well as the Wightman Cup
As stated above, she in an International Tennis Hall of Famer. She was also inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1990. She was bestowed upon the Fed Cup Award of Excellence in 2010. In 1972, King was the joint winner, with John Wooden, of the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year award and was one of the Time Persons of the Year in 1975.
She has also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year lifetime achievement award. In 2006, the USTA National Tennis Center in New York City was renamed the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. In 1973, King became the first President of the women’s players union – the Women’s Tennis Association.
Battle of the Sexes:
On September 20th 1973, exactly 44 years ago today, Billie entered court for a match against Bobby Riggs. Yes, a woman went one-on-one against a man in a tennis match. That is not all, she was 29 while he was a 55 year-old veteran. Bobby Riggs (February 25, 1918 – October 25, 1995) is a former World Number 1 and six Grand Slam titles to his name.
“We were fighting so hard to change hearts and minds about the value of women in society. I felt like everybody was depending on me to beat him.”
32,472 people filled the Houston Astrodome while over fifty million people tuned in to watch the Battle of the Sexes. Oh, and by the way, that attendance record stood as the highest ever in a tennis match, until it was broken in 2010.
Billie Jean King proved that women deserved equality even in sports after taking Bobby Riggs down in three straight sets of 6-4, 6-3 and 6-3. The notion that ‘women only belonged to the bedroom and kitchen, in that order’ was quashed that day. With this win, King cemented her place in the sport of tennis, as well as starting the women’s revolution.
Today, women participate in almost all sports, just like the men, and this is greatly because of Billie Jean King’s sacrifices. 44 years later, those sacrifices were not in vain.#
Two days from now, on September 22 2017, “Battle of the Sexes” the movie, will be released. It stars Emma Stone as Billie Jean King and Steve Carell as Bobby Riggs. Here is the trailer.