Perhaps the most complete all-court tennis player in the history of the game and one of the greatest female tennis players of all time, Billie Jean King was known for her unparalleled court speed, forceful net game, and fierce competitiveness.
She dominated the tennis scene from 1966-1975, earning 32 of her 39 Grand Slam titles during this period, including all 12 of her Grand Slam singles titles, nine of her 16 Grand Slam women’s doubles titles, and 10 of her 11 Grand Slam mixed doubles titles. She held the world number 1 ranking in women’s tennis from 1966-1968, from 1971-1972, and in 1974.
A One Dollar Contract
In 1970, Billie Jean was part of a group of nine women tennis players, later dubbed the “Original 9,” who signed a $1 contract to join the Virginia Slims Circuit to protest against the inequity in prize money awarded in the men’s and women’s game. In 1973, at the height of her competitive years, King leveraged her influence and position to spearhead the formation of the Women’s Tennis Association and became its first president.
Billie Jean King vs. Bobby Riggs
Battle of the Sexes
Her extraordinary success and influence on the game gained a worldwide audience of 90 million in 1973 when she played former number 1 player and self-proclaimed chauvinist Bobby Riggs in the “Battle of the Sexes.” Proclaiming loudly and often that the women’s game was inferior to the men’s, Billie accepted his challenge to prove him wrong. And so she did. King defeated Riggs in three sets in the most-watched tennis match of all time.
“PRESSURE IS A PRIVILEGE.”
In 1974, Billie Jean King co-founded the inclusive World TeamTennis (WTT) co-ed league. Based on a concept of gender equity, WTT is the first professional sports league to feature men and women on the same team making equal contributions to the game.
Hall of Famer
Billie Jean King was elected to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1987. She is a true tennis legend and the third winningest female player in major tournament history. Yet it’s her position as an influential force in the national conversation surrounding gender equality that she prizes above all.
Grand Slam Titles
Over the course of 19 years, Billie Jean King won 39 Grand Slam singles, doubles, and mixed doubles titles, including a record 20 career titles at Wimbledon. Outside of Margaret Court and Martina Navratilova, no player in history has won more majors than Billie Jean.