"Chris Evert wasn't so much against us; her father really controlled the situation" - When Billie Jean King spoke on resistance to fight for equality

Billie Jean King (L) and Chris Evert (R)
Billie Jean King (L) and Chris Evert (R)

Billie Jean King once opened up about the players who were most resistant to her efforts to bring change to women's tennis in her fight for equality, naming Chris Evert as one such player. However, King was quick to clarify that her compatriot's resistance was influenced by her father rather than her own beliefs.

In June 1973, King led the charge to establish the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) after becoming disillusioned with the unequal treatment of men's and women's players, particularly with regard to prize money.

The American's relentless fight for equality led to the US Open making history as the first sporting event to offer equal prize money in 1973, with the other three Grand Slams eventually following suit. Billie Jean King was also instrumental in establishing the Virginia Slims circuit for women's tennis.

Despite her groundbreaking accomplishments, King received pushback from some of her fellow women's players. In an interview with The New York Times in 1978, the American revealed that for two years after the introduction of the Virginia Slims circuit, prominent players such as Chris Evert, Evonne Goolagong Cawley, Margaret Court and Virginia Wade opposed their efforts.

However, Billie Jean King promptly clarified that Evert herself wasn't strongly against the changes, attributing her compatriot's resistance to her father Jimmy's "controlling" influence.

"When the Virginia Slims circuit started in 1971, for two years Chris Evert, Evonne Goolagong, Margaret Court and Virginia Wade were against us. Chris wasn't so much against us; her father really controlled the situation," King said.

King also asserted that Evert had benefited the most from the advancements she and her peers fought for.

"I think Chris has derived the most from the efforts that we made. Not just myself; I get the credit that maybe five or six of us—Francoise Durr, Rosie Casals, Ann Jones, some others—should be getting, because I happen to be the best player of the group," she added.

"Everybody will be out to get her" - Chris Evert's father Jimmy on her dominant win over Billie Jean King as a teenager

Billie Jean King (L) and Chris Evert
Billie Jean King (L) and Chris Evert

At just 17 years of age, Chris Evert stunned Billie Jean King in the semifinals of the 1972 Virginia Slims of Fort Lauderdale with a commanding 6-4, 6-2 victory.

Despite the teen prodigy's impressive win, her father Jimmy expressed caution about its consequences. In an interview with The New York Times, he voiced concern that such a dominant win would put a target on her back, fearing that she would be "thrown to the wolves."

"I'm not so sure such lopsided win was such a good thing. Everybody will be out to get her, and don't worry, she'll be thrown to the wolves," he said.

Chris Evert and Billie Jean King developed a very compelling rivalry on tour, locking horns 26 times. Evert held the upper hand, enjoying a 19-7 lead in their head-to-head record.

Quick Links

Edited by Urvi Mehra
App download animated image Get the free App now