- The top 20 all-time women’s tennis prize money winners
In 1970, women’s tennis was virtually nothing.
While the men took centre stage everywhere, the women were relegated to the back courts.
Pay and prize money? Also virtually nothing. Certainly not enough to survive on.
FOLLOW LIVE: Australian Open 2023 day 12
READ MORE: Calls for Djoker’s dad to be thrown out of Open
READ MORE: Kubler’s girlfriend stitches him up on live TV
But that changed when Billie Jean King led a group of the best female players – now known as the Original Nine – to start their own professional tour in pursuit of equal rights.
Alongside King was fellow Americans Peaches Bartkowicz, Julie Heldman, Nancy Richey, Rosie Casals, Valerue Ziegenfuss, and Kristy Pigeon, as well as two Australians – Judy Dalton and Kerry Melville Reid.
Seven of the Original Nine have reunited in Melbourne during the Australian Open, where they were recognised for their achievements in a special ceremony on Rod Laver Arena ahead of the women’s semi-finals on Thursday evening.
Watch the Australian Open live and free on the Nine Network: Channel 9, 9Gem and 9NOW.
During a special aired on Stan Sport’s Grand Slam Daily, King said they set out with three goals.
“We decided that we would give up our careers for the future generations. I remember all of us asking each other really like is this something you’re really willing to do?” she said.
“Think about if you never can play again – and we decided we didn’t care.
“[There were] three things we wanted for the future – and a little bit for ourselves if it worked, but no guarantees.
“Number one was any girl born in this world, any girl if she’s good enough, will have a place to compete.
“Number two [was] to be appreciated for our accomplishments, not only [for] our looks.
“Number three – most importantly for us – was that we want to be able to make a living.”
Heldman’s mother Gladys was the publisher of the influential World Tennis Magazine, and with her backing, they each signed one-dollar contracts and found sponsorship for their first tournament, held in Houston.
It was three years from then before the WTA was officially formed, but its roots are firmly in that tournament in Houston.
Sam Stosur, who played in her last professional tennis tournament on the doubles draws of this year’s Australian Open, said her whole career was owed to the Original Nine.
“Every single player since then has been able to have a career, have a life [because of them],” she said.
“We owe everything to these women and they are incredibly special people.
“They didn’t know what was going to happen to them once they signed those contracts – it could have been a disaster for them all personally, but they took the risk and … every single tennis player is so thankful for what they were able to do.”
Stosur said the effects of their actions spread far beyond tennis.
“Obviously they were trying to make a tennis tour, but it meant so much more for women around the world,” she said.
“Whether you play tennis or don’t play tennis, they were big for women’s rights.
“Billie is just an incredible person and when you hear her speak, she commands attention – you want to stand there, you want to listen to her.
“We’re very fortunate she was playing the sport we all love … and we’ve all benefited from their risk and what they were able to do.”
- ‹ Previous Article
- Next Article›
- Central,Volta NDC Congratulate new Minority leadership
- What Was Not On The Agenda?