Home News Half-Century Milestone for WTA: The Pioneering Role of Billie Jean King and Rosie Casals in Transforming Women’s Tennis

Half-Century Milestone for WTA: The Pioneering Role of Billie Jean King and Rosie Casals in Transforming Women’s Tennis

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WTA 50th anniversary

Two weeks post the groundbreaking meeting to establish the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), Billie Jean King (on the left) and Rosie Casals (on the right) claimed the women’s doubles championship at Wimbledon.

The remarkable transition of women’s tennis started with a unique strategy: no one was permitted to exit a room filled with 60 female players until they had changed the face of the sport. A towering player was tasked with guarding the door, alluding to an impending major development.

Half a century ago, this impactful gathering at London’s Gloucester Hotel set the stage for the WTA. Its legacy is clearly visible in today’s landscape of women’s tennis.

In the previous ten years, a mere four women have been ranked in the top 50 on Forbes’ list of the highest-earning athletes, all of them being tennis players.

This is a stark contrast to the situation on 21 June 1973. Led by Billie Jean King, a collective of women united at the brink of Wimbledon, aiming to amalgamate players from rival tours into a singular organization. The result? The first ever global women’s professional sports tour.

“It was a turning point in women’s tennis,” says Rosie Casals, King’s doubles partner and a fellow member of the ‘Original Nine,’ the trailblazers who formed a breakaway tour in 1970, in an interview with Sport News Center.

Yet, she believes that the modern generation may not fully comprehend the significance of their endeavors.

She advocates for a deeper understanding of their fight for the cause, rather than just observing the struggle through films and videos. Casals, a nine-time Grand Slam women’s doubles champion, highlights the need for the new generation to appreciate and give back to the sport.

“There’s no other women’s sport that’s achieved such success and entitlement as these women have,” she states.

According to Casals, it’s not just about playing and receiving the payment. She encourages the current players to contribute more to the sport and extend their support to sponsors and promoters when needed.

The conception of the WTA was not an overnight process. Casals and her colleagues spent the preceding year engaging with players on competing tours, convincing them of the benefits of uniting. The fruitful results of their breakaway Virginia Slims circuit validated their proposal.

Casals identifies a lack of closeness with sponsors and promoters amongst contemporary players, which she believes was a key element of their success back in the day.

Former British number one, Laura Robson, acknowledges that the women’s game would be non-existent without the WTA.

“The Original Nine gave us the opportunity to make a living from what we love – playing tennis,” she shares with Sport News Center.

Following the historical meeting, King was appointed as the president of the WTA. Her pursuit for equality, including equal prize money for women at Grand Slams, gained momentum.

King reflected on the experience in the Today programme, saying, “It was the most thrilling year of my life. Knowing we were united was a joyous moment. We showed other women’s sports that it could be done. If you can envision it, you can accomplish it.”

The first Grand Slam to award equal prize money to men and women was the US Open in 1973, and the last was Wimbledon in 2007.

2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu, in a 2020 open letter to the Original Nine, wrote: “The leap you took was monumental; you were the pioneers. Your generation has inspired mine to keep fighting and striving for change.”

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) Anniversary

What was the significant event that occurred in women’s tennis 50 years ago?

The significant event that took place 50 years ago was a meeting led by Billie Jean King that resulted in the formation of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), uniting different players from rival tours into one organization. This event marked the start of the first truly global women’s professional sports tour.

Who are the ‘Original Nine’ in women’s tennis?

The ‘Original Nine’ refers to the group of women tennis players, including Billie Jean King and Rosie Casals, who formed a breakaway tour in 1970. They took a significant risk, which paid off as they started earning good money and playing in large arenas.

What significant change in Grand Slam prize money did the WTA help initiate?

The WTA, under the leadership of Billie Jean King, fought for equality in prize money at Grand Slam tournaments. Their efforts led to the US Open becoming the first Grand Slam to award equal prize money to men and women in 1973.

Who was the first president of the WTA?

Billie Jean King, one of the leading figures in the creation of the WTA, was installed as the first president of the organization.

How does Rosie Casals view the current state of women’s tennis?

Rosie Casals acknowledges the success and entitlement of women’s tennis but believes that modern players may not fully appreciate the struggles of the past. She advocates for a deeper understanding and for players to give back more to the sport.

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