Billie Jean King engraved her sanction successful past arsenic 1 of tennis’s champion athletes successful the 1960s and ‘70s. But she besides distinguished herself by championing sex equality efforts successful tennis arsenic she roseate to fame. In summation to increasing into 1 of the sport’s most celebrated athletes, King besides made important strides to level the playing tract for women. She rallied for adjacent wage and just treatment—all portion demonstrating that women’s sports are conscionable arsenic competitory arsenic men’s. Here are immoderate facts astir 1 of the astir important women successful sports history.
Billie Jean King, 1965. / M. McKeown/GettyImages
While galore athletes statesman playing sports arsenic young children, King didn’t play her archetypal crippled of tennis until a person took her to a state nine when she was 11. She fell successful emotion with the athletics instantly and rapidly purchased her ain tennis racket. King past began to walk her escaped clip connected Long Beach’s nationalist courts, wherever they offered escaped tennis lessons. She played her archetypal Grand Slam astatine the 1959 U.S. Championships erstwhile she was lone 15 years aged .
2. She won her archetypal Wimbledon rubric successful 1961.
Billie Jean King during the Lawn Tennis Championships astatine Wimbledon, 1982. / Bob Martin/GettyImages
King won her archetypal Wimbledon rubric successful 1961—just 2 years aft her Grand Slam debut—by snagging the apical spot successful the doubles title with Karen Hantz. She went connected to go a Wimbledon singles champion successful 1966, 1967, 1968, 1972, 1973, and 1975.
Billie Jean King serving the shot during a lucifer astatine Wimbeldon, 1970. / Tony Duffy/GettyImages
There are 4 main types of tennis surfaces radical tin play on: grass, carpet, clay, and the hard court. In 1974, King made past and became the archetypal pistillate to triumph U.S. singles titles on each 4 surfaces.
4. A assemblage denied her a tennis assistance due to the fact that of her gender.
Billie Jean King astatine the 1970 Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships. / Fox Photos/GettyImages
King earned her archetypal Wimbledon win—the 1961 doubles championship—when she was successful college. Despite that unthinkable feat, she was denied a tennis scholarship astatine Los Angeles State College (now California State University, Los Angeles) due to the fact that she was a woman.
In 1972, King won the women’s singles astatine the U.S. Open—yet she received $15,000 less than the victor of the men’s singles. She past began to openly knock the quality successful pay, threatening to boycott the athletics forever; the pursuing year, the U.S. Open offered adjacent prize wealth to some men and women.
6. King is the archetypal pistillate Sports Illustrated named SportsPerson of the Year.
Billie Jean King successful 1966. / Evening Standard/GettyImages
King acceptable different grounds by becoming the archetypal woman to beryllium chosen arsenic Sports Person of the Year by Sports Illustrated successful 1972; she and UCLA manager John Wooden earned the rubric that year. Up until that point, lone men had graced the screen of the publication. “Getting the Sportsperson of the Year successful 1972 was truthful idiosyncratic for maine due to the fact that of Title IX. That's what it meant for me, that times-were-a-changing, arsenic Dylan sang successful those times,” King aboriginal said. “Sports are a microcosm of society, truthful it was huge. I'm not definite SI adjacent thought astir it, but, boy, I definite did.”
King continued her efforts to foster equality successful tennis by establishing and starring the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA). The enactment is successful complaint of the WTA Tour—an planetary nonrecreational women’s tennis tour—and is the main governing assemblage for women’s tennis. King was the WTA’s archetypal president; she served successful the relation from 1973–1975, past from 1980–1981.
8. King won the Battle of the Sexes successful 1973.
In 1973, King defeated tennis subordinate Bobby Riggs successful the Battle of the Sexes. Riggs was a self-proclaimed antheral chauvinist: He claimed women’s tennis was inferior, and believed helium was susceptible of surpassing immoderate woman’s tennis quality nary substance his age. King proved him incorrect erstwhile she played him successful the historical match. She was 29, Riggs was 55. The lucifer was broadcast to implicit 90 cardinal people. “To bushed a 55-year-old feline was nary thrill for me. The thrill was exposing a batch of caller radical to tennis,” King said.
Billie Jean King aft the Lawn Tennis Championships astatine Wimbledon, 1975. / Getty Images/GettyImages
King retired from tennis successful 1984, but her legacy has continued to loom ample implicit the athletics agelong aft she near the court. In 1980, she was inducted into the Women’s Sports Hall of Fame. In 1987, she was honored by being inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. And, finally, she was recognized successful 1990 by being inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.
10. She became a planetary mentor for UNESCO.
King’s power extends acold beyond the tennis court. In 2008, she was appointed the Global Mentor for Gender Equality by UNESCO, wherever she continued her ngo to equalize the playing field.
The pursuing year, King received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian grant a idiosyncratic whitethorn beryllium granted. She became the archetypal pistillate jock to recieve the medal. "We grant what she calls each of the off-the-court stuff, what she did to broaden the scope of the game, to alteration however women athletes and women everyplace presumption themselves, and to springiness everyone, careless of sex oregon intersexual orientation, including my 2 daughters, a accidental to vie some connected the tribunal and successful life,” President Obama said.