Billie Jean King is by far one of the best known female tennis players. She along with eight others – Peaches Bartkowicz, Rosie Casals, Judy Dalton, Julie Heldman, Kerry Melville Reid, Kristy Pigeon, Nancy Richey and Valerie Ziegenfuss – were pioneers in the world of tennis when in 1970, they formed what would become known as the Virginia Slims circuit – later the Women’s Tennis Association. Virginia Slims was a brand of cigarettes.
While that original contract was for just one dollar for each player, it helped to pave the way for women players to be paid the same as their male counterparts.
Known as the original nine, the group of pioneering women were named en masse to the Tennis Hall of Fame in the contributor category. King was inducted as a player in 1987.
Lleyton Hewitt was the only person named to The Hall as a player and Dennis Van der Meer was given a posthumous induction in the contributor category.
The 2021 class of the Hall of Fame will be joined by the 2020 inductees – Goran Ivanisevic and Conchita Martinez – for an official induction ceremony on July 17 at the home of the Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island.
The 2020 festivities were cancelled due to the Covid-10 pandemic and a mandate against crowd gatherings.
Lleyton Hewitt spoke on being named to the Hall of Fame saying, “when you are competing, you’re so focused on training and your results that week or that year, you don’t really look ahead to something like this. But when that is all compiled up and deemed deserving of becoming a Hall of Famer, well, it’s just the ultimate recognition for a player, and I’m so honored.”
Billie Jean King noted that when the original nine was formed they had three objectives, “number one, that any girl born in this world would have a place to play and compete. Number two, that women would be appreciated for our accomplishments, not just our looks. And number three, that women would finally be able to make a living playing professional tennis. Today, every time a woman gets a check for competing in a Grand Slam or the WTA Tour or gets to play in a pro tournament, you can trace it back to that day.”
feature photo credit: International Hall of Fame Facebook page