Last week we saw Battle of the Sexes. I was so looking forward to this movie, and it didn’t disappoint. It dove into so many issues, was complex, and paid tribute to a woman who to this day, I don’t think she realizes what a positive and large impact she has had on this world. I could get into A LOT of social themes, but since this is a tennis site, I will talk about the impact she had not only on women’s tennis but on the sport as a whole.
Billie Jean King and the Bryan Brothers at World Team Tennis
This past US Open when Sloane Stephens received her check of over $3 million, she got excited and remarked that it’s so much money. In the stands, Billie Jean King watched, and I wondered if she knew that she made that all possible. Not only the amount, but the fact that it matched the men’s prize. And if it wasn’t for her, would women’s tennis even exist? Would these combo ATP WTA tournements be the amazing events that they are? And would the men’s tour, even the sport as a whole be less if it wasn’t for the inclusion of the most talented women tennis players on earth? Ultimately, what would tennis be like, if there was no Serena Williams.
Billie Jean is visionary that saw an injustice in the professional tennis system. And she took it upon herself to make things right. She convinced a group of women to leave the established USLTA and start the WTA for a contract price of $1 each. Her team grinded it out to build the WTA to a relevant force in sports. While she was doing that, she also participated in a statement match that with her win started the path to the world of tennis we know today. If she had not put herself out there the way she did, in the extreme and public way she did, we would not have the sport we have today.
Because of this there are great opportunities for women in tennis… and for us fans, the best the sport can offer. And this is why, I thank Billie Jean today.