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Billie Jean King


ABOUT
ABOUT

Former American tennis player Billie Jean King is possibly the most influential female athlete of all time. She was tremendously successful on the court and a revolutionary figure off it, using her fame and position to ensure better playing conditions for women in tennis.


King won 12 Grand Slams in singles, 16 in doubles and 11 in mixed doubles, but her influence extended far beyond that. A vocal advocate for women's rights and LGBT rights, King has become a household name due to her tireless efforts at promoting equality - in sport as well as society as a whole.


Best finish at each of the four Grand Slams:

Australian Open: Champion (1968)

French Open: Champion (1972)

Wimbledon: 6-time Champion (1966, 1967, 1968, 1972, 1973, 1975)

US Open: 4-time Champion (1967, 1971, 1972, 1974)

Highest Ranking: No. 1


Style of play, strengths and weaknesses


King was an aggressive net-rusher who used the full dimensions of the court to outwit her opponents. She had an exceptional volley, and displayed remarkable agility and reflexes while covering the net.


King was also adept at hitting from the backcourt, and her backhand slice in particular was very effective. While her forehand down the line was one of her weaknesses, she made up for it by maximizing the other weapons in her arsenal.


King's biggest asset was arguably her mental strength. She played the big points better than anyone else in her generation, and displayed nerves of steel whenever she needed to the most.


She was also a master of comebacks. No matter how hopeless a situation she found herself in on the court, she never gave up, and kept trying to find ways to come back into the match. Her career is filled with numerous instances of impossible come-from-behind wins that defied belief.


Personal life


King was born in Long Beach, California, and belonged to a very athletic family. Her father Bill Moffitt played a variety of sports, her mother Betty was a swimmer, and her brother Randy played baseball in the MLB.


King started playing tennis full time at the age of 11, and practised for a while under the guidance of Clyde Walker on Long Beach's public courts.


She married Larry King in 1965, and the two remained together until 1987 - their relationship endured even through her public relationship and fallout with Marilyn Barnett. King identifies as a lesbian, and is currently with her former doubles partner Ilana Kloss.


Legacy


Billie Jean King will always be remembered for her on-court success, especially at Wimbledon, where she won 6 singles titles and 14 in doubles and mixed doubles. Her court craft and intelligent shot-making were almost impossible to counter during her peak years, and her game was one of the most widely used in coaching manuals and tutorials.


However, it is King's off-court work that makes her such a special figure in the history of sport. Championing the cause of women players right from the start, King was responsible for the creation of the WTA in 1973.


She never stopped pushing for gender equality in the sport, and her vocal protests were chiefly responsible for the US Open declaring equal pay for men and women in the year 1973.


Her "Battle of the Sexes" match against Bobby Riggs in 1973 is considered to be a landmark event in the evolution of sport. Riggs, a former World No. 1 player, had boasted that the disparity between men's and women's tennis was so huge that even at the age of 55 he could defeat any top female player.


But King proved him wrong, defeating him in straight sets and scoring a huge point for women's liberation. There was no stopping her after that, and the fact that tennis is possibly the most gender-neutral sport in the world today is largely thanks to King's efforts.


In 2006, the USTA National Tennis Center (the venue for the US Open) was renamed to USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. That's just one indication of how King's legacy is likely to last for eternity.



Social media presence:

Billie Jean King Instagram: @billiejeanking

Billie Jean King Twitter: @BillieJeanKing


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