The Fed Cup is altering its name to honor tennis great Billie Jean King, the lady whose lifelong battle for equality and social justice laid the inspiration for generations that adopted.
The Billie Jean King Cup will change into the primary main world staff competitors to be named after a girl, the International Tennis Federation stated Thursday.
“I’m still in shock,” the 76-year-old King stated of the tribute. “It’s really a privilege, and it’s also a responsibility. It’s wild, it’s great, it’s wonderful.”
The rebranding follows earlier changes to deliver prize money according to the boys’s Davis Cup and coincides with the fiftieth anniversary of King’s pioneering effort to launch a girls’s professional tennis circuit.
“We feel it’s long overdue,” ITF president David Haggerty stated. “All major team competitions, including Davis Cup, are named after men, and we think it’s really fitting that the women’s world cup of tennis would be named after someone as iconic as Billie Jean King, who changed the face of women’s sports.”
King and her friends, often called the “Original 9,” risked their careers to begin the Virginia Slims tour. Their work led to the creation of the Women’s Tennis Association in 1973 because the organizing physique for girls’s skilled tennis.
King’s early efforts led to the profitable prize funds and multimillion-dollar endorsement offers loved at present by prime gamers like Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka.
“Today, the players are living our dream, and we’re thrilled for them,” King stated. “Women’s tennis is the leader in women’s sports. We are also leaders in the fight for justice and equality.”
King gained 12 Grand Slam singles titles, together with six at Wimbledon. But her most well-known match got here in 1973 when she beat 55-year-old Bobby Riggs 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 within the “Battle of the Sexes.” The match, thought-about to be a milestone within the promotion of girls’s equality, was watched on TV by hundreds of thousands all over the world.
King’s affiliation with the Fed Cup goes again to its founding, when she was a member of the U.S. staff that gained the inaugural event in 1963 at Queen’s Club in London.
Then 19 years outdated, she recalled prodding her teammates: “This is history being made. We have to win it, so we always know we were the first. Come on! They said, Oh god, not you again. We know what the deal is.”
King, as a participant and coach, gained the Fed Cup trophy 10 instances — a report for a person. She was appointed because the competitors’s first world ambassador in 2019.
Sixteen nations competed the primary time, whereas 116 entered for 2020. Twelve groups play within the Finals.
“The goal is to continue that outreach and Billie as an iconic figure, who is so well known, can help us do that,” Haggerty stated.
The Davis Cup — named for Dwight Davis, who performed within the inaugural event in 1900 — has extra nations and 18 spots in its Finals.
“I’d like to get more countries,” King stated. “We have 116, the guys have 142. The cultures are different in a lot of countries. We’re going to have a lot of work ahead of us to break things down.”
The Billie Jean King Cup Finals are scheduled for April 13-18 in Budapest, Hungary. King stated she “absolutely” will attend in April until there are coronavirus roadblocks.
The 2020 Finals for each tournaments had been scrapped this 12 months due to the pandemic, though qualifying nations will keep their locations for the 2021 Finals.
King, the winner of 39 Grand Slam titles in singles, doubles and combined doubles, stated she’s “so fortunate” to be honored by the ITF. She recalled the late tennis journalist Bud Collins proposing a Fed Cup name change years in the past.
“He said it had a horrible name. I had heard then that they were talking about naming me, or Chris Evert, or maybe another player,” King stated. “It never came to fruition through the years. I know how lucky I am and blessed. People have always championed me.”
King stated she’s pleased with at present’s stars for taking sturdy stances for social justice.
“Every generation,” King stated, “has something special to offer to this process.”
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