Billie Jean King (Winner of 39 Grand Slams)
Billie Jean King (née Moffitt; born November 22, 1943 in Long Beach, California) is a former professional tennis player from the United States.
She won 12 Grand Slam singles titles, 16 Grand Slam women's doubles titles, and 11 Grand Slam mixed doubles titles.
King has long been an advocate against sexism in sports and society.
She is known for "The Battle of the Sexes" in 1973, in which she defeated Bobby Riggs, a former Wimbledon men's singles champion.
King is the founder of the Women's Tennis Association, the Women's Sports Foundation, and World Team Tennis, which she founded with her former husband, Lawrence King.
Billie Jean Moffitt was born into a conservative Methodist family, the daughter of a fireman father and housewife mother. Her younger brother Randy Moffitt grew up to become a professional baseball player, pitching for 12 years in the major leagues for the San Francisco Giants, Houston Astros, and Toronto Blue Jays.
Billie Jean attended Long Beach Polytechnic High School. After graduating, she attended California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA) because her parents could not afford Stanford or the University of Southern California (USC).
She married Lawrence King in Long Beach, California on September 17, 1965. In 1971, she had an abortion, revealed to the public in a Ms. Magazine article in 1972 by Lawrence without consulting Billie Jean in advance. King said in her 1982 autobiography that she decided to have an abortion because she believed her marriage was not solid enough to bring a child into her family. Billie Jean and Lawrence divorced in 1987.
By 1968, King realized that she was interested in women, and in 1971, King began an intimate relationship with her secretary, Marilyn Barnett. King acknowledged the relationship when it became public in a May 1981 "palimony" lawsuit filed by Barnett, making King the first prominent professional female athlete to come out as a lesbian. King said that she had wanted to retire from competitive tennis in 1981 but could not afford to because of the lawsuit.
"Within 24 hours [of the lawsuit being filed], I lost all my endorsements; I lost everything. I lost $2 million [$4,784,141 in current dollar terms] at least, because I had longtime contracts. I had to play just to pay for the lawyers. In three months I went through $500,000 [$1,196,035 in current dollar terms]. I was in shock. I didn't make $2 million in my lifetime, so it's all relative to what you make." King said in 1998 that Martina Navratilova was not supportive when King was outed, resulting in their relationship having a "very bad five years."
King learned to professionally play tennis on the public courts of Long Beach, California. She was an aggressive, hard-hitting net-rusher, with excellent speed. Chris Evert, however, said about King, "Her weakness is her impatience."
In a May 19, 1975, Sports Illustrated article about King, Frank Deford noted that she had become something of a sex symbol and said, "Billie Jean cackles when the matter of her being a sex symbol is raised. 'Hysterical! Hysterical! Me, with these little short legs!' But she is practical enough to realize that a guy who buys a ticket to look at the girls has bought a ticket as sure as the guy who buys a ticket to look at the girls' forehands.
Billie Jean herself not only thinks that sex is a dandy thing to have lurking around sports, but she also employs sex as sort of the ultimate gauge of equality between women's and men's athletics. This may be described as the Get-It Quotient.... 'There's a lot of ugly fellas among the male athletes, but just because they're athletes they get it all the time, don't they? Now, never mind prize money and publicity and all that. When we reach the point where all the women athletes are getting it, too, regardless of their looks, just like the fellas, then we've really arrived.'"
King's triumph at the French Open in 1972 made her only the fifth woman in tennis history to win the singles titles at all four Grand Slam events, a "career Grand Slam." (Four additional women have completed a career Grand Slam since King.) King also won a career Grand Slam in mixed doubles. In women's doubles, only the Australian Open eluded her.
King won a record 20 career titles at Wimbledon – 6 singles, 10 women's doubles, and 4 mixed doubles. (Martina Navratilova also has 20 career titles at Wimbledon.)
King played 51 Grand Slam singles events from 1959 through 1983 (197–39 .835 win–loss record): 21 at Wimbledon (96–15 win–loss record), 18 at the U.S. Championships/Open (63–14 win–loss record), 7 at the French Championships/Open (22–6 win–loss record), and 5 at the Australian Championships/Open (16–4 win–loss record). King reached at least the semifinals in 27 and at least the quarterfinals in 40 out of her 51 attempts.
King was the runner-up in 6 Grand Slam singles events.
An indicator of King's mental toughness at crunch time in Grand Slam singles tournaments was her 11–2 career record in deuce third sets, i.e., third sets that were tied 5–5 before being resolved.
- A Tribute to Romanian Women in Sports
- Brave Conchita Chose Bloody Sport
- Princess Haya of Jordan (Humanitarian/Sportswoman)
- Althea Gibson (Sportswoman)