Today we honor one of the greatest tennis players of all time and champion of gender equality, Billie Jean King. King (née Billie Jean Moffitt) was born in Long Beach, CA on November 22, 1943 into a family of athletes. She played softball as a young child and switched to tennis at age 11, saving up $8 to buy a tennis racket herself.
King has spent much of her life promoting gender equality in tennis. She co-founded the World Tennis Team in 1973 and the Women’s Sports Foundation in 1974. She fought for women to receive the equal prize money as men in tennis matches, eventually becoming the first woman athlete to earn over $100,000 in prize money. In 1973, she defeated Bobby Riggs in straight sets to win the landmark “Battle of the Sexes” match.
In May 1981, King became the first prominent female athlete to come out after she was sued by a former partner. The fallout from the lawsuit caused Billie Jean to lose an estimated $2 million in endorsements and forced her to prolong her tennis career to pay attorneys.
King is the winner of 39 Grand Slam singles, doubles and mixed doubles titles, including a record 20 titles at Wimbledon. She retired from professional tennis in 1983 and has continued to be involved in sports and charitable organizations during her retirement.
She lends charitable support to the fight against AIDS, acting as a director of both the Elton John AIDS Foundation and the National AIDS Fund
On August 28, 2006, the National Tennis Center, home of the U. S. Open, was renamed the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, in honor of her contributions to tennis, sports and society both on and off the court, making her the first U.S. woman to have a sports stadium named after her.We raise a glass to Billie Jean King and her incredible accomplishments on and off the tennis court.