Rise of the rebels: The Original 9 of tennis set the ball rolling for women - Hindustan Times
close_game
close_game

Rise of the rebels: The Original 9 of tennis set the ball rolling for women

Jul 24, 2023 06:16 PM IST

An elite group of players advocated for equal prize money in the '60s. Change finally came to the US Open in 1973; the other Grand Slams gradually followed.

Billie Jean King and Rod Laver were both major draws in tennis in 1968. While King had four Grand Slam titles to her name at the time, Laver had six. That year marked the beginning of the Open Era, which would allow both amateur and professional players compete together in Majors for the first time.

The Original 9 at the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Women’s Tennis Association. “Everyone thinks women should be thrilled when we get crumbs,” Billie Jean King, who spearheaded the movement, said, while speaking at the Italian Open in 1970. “I want women to have the cake, the icing, and the cherry on top too.” (AP) PREMIUM
The Original 9 at the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Women’s Tennis Association. “Everyone thinks women should be thrilled when we get crumbs,” Billie Jean King, who spearheaded the movement, said, while speaking at the Italian Open in 1970. “I want women to have the cake, the icing, and the cherry on top too.” (AP)

Wimbledon had the honour of being the first Grand Slam of the Open Era and there was great buzz heading into it. However, even as the tournament was being heralded as a huge step in the right direction, King and many others in the women’s game were left with a sinking feeling by the time it ended.

While Laver was paid £2000 as prize money for winning the men’s singles title, King was handed only £750 for winning the women’s singles and left with the realisation that her battle had only just begun.

“I didn’t have any idea we were going to get different prize money,” said King on the 2013 PBS documentary American Masters. “I thought it was totally unfair.”

Stunned, King spearheaded the formation of Original 9. Seven elite players of this group – King, Rosie Casals, Nancy Richey, Kristy Pigeon, Valerie Ziegenfuss, Peaches Bartkowicz and Julie Heldman – were from the US, while Kerry Melville Reid and Judy Tegart Dalton represented Australia.

The Original 9 were confident they could draw the same crowds to stadiums as men, and deserved equal money for it. In September 1970, they showed incredible courage, launching their own circuit in Texas. The Virginia Slims Circuit signed one-dollar pro contracts with Gladys Heldman, the promoter and founder of World Tennis Magazine.

King and her band of rebels gained plenty of attention everywhere they played and kept raising awareness about their battle. After she won the 1972 US Open women’s singles title, King once again used her voice unequivocally in favour of equal prize money in tennis tournaments.

And at last, the following year, things changed for good.

The year 1973 remains momentous for two reasons. The Women’s Tennis Association – still the governing body for women’s tennis – was launched that year. And the US Open gave equal prize money of $25,000 to both the men’s and women’s singles champions.

King and the Original 9’s bravery led to a historic change in the sport. While the US Open was the first of the four Grand Slams to offer equal pay, the Australian Open (2001), French Open (2006) and Wimbledon (2007) followed.

Are you a cricket buff? Participate in the HT Cricket Quiz daily and stand a chance to win an iPhone 15 & Boat Smartwatch. Click here to participate now.

Catch your daily dose of Fashion, Health, Festivals, Travel, Relationship, Recipe and all the other Latest Lifestyle News on Hindustan Times Website and APPs.

Continue reading with HT Premium Subscription

Daily E Paper I Premium Articles I Brunch E Magazine I Daily Infographics
freemium
SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Share this article
SHARE
Story Saved
Live Score
OPEN APP
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Wednesday, April 24, 2024
Start 14 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Follow Us On