Billie Jean King - Star of the court | Page 2 | Sunday Observer

Billie Jean King - Star of the court

10 October, 2021

Billie Jean King is an American former world number one woman tennis player. She won 39 Grand Slam titles, 12 in singles, 16 in women’s doubles, and 11 in mixed doubles.

Regarded by many in the sport as one of the greatest women’s tennis players of all time, King was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1987.

The ‘Fed Cup Award of Excellence’ was bestowed on her in 2010. In 1972, she was the joint winner, with John Wooden, of the Sports Illustrated ‘Sportsman of the Year Award’ and was one of the ‘Time Persons of the Year’ in 1975. She has also received the ‘Presidential Medal of Freedom’ and the Sunday Times ‘Sportswoman of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award’. She was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1990, and in 2006, the USTA National Tennis Centre in New York City was renamed the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Centre. In 2018, she won the ‘BBC Sports Personality of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award’. Standing at only 1.64 m (5 ft 4+1⁄2 in), King is the shortest player to have ever won a grand slam in tennis.

King’s family in Long Beach attended the Church of the Brethren, where the minister was former athlete and two-time Olympic pole-vaulting champion, Bob Richards. One day, when King was 13 or 14, Richards asked her, “What are you going to do with your life?” She said: “Reverend, I’m going to be the best tennis player in the world.”

King’s French Open win 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’. She also won a ‘career Grand Slam’ in mixed doubles. In women’s doubles, only the Australian Open eluded her.

King played 51 Grand Slam singles events from 1959 through 1983, reaching at least the semi-finals in 27 and at least the quarter-finals in 40 of her attempts. King was the runner-up in six Grand Slam singles events.

An indicator of her mental toughness in Grand Slam singles tournaments was her 11–2 career record in deuce third sets.

King won 129 singles titles,[22] 78 of which were WTA titles, and her career prize money totaled US$1,966,487. Sports Illustrated already claimed her as ‘one of the most promising youngsters on the West Coast.’

She won her first tournament the next year in Philadelphia at the 1960 Philadelphia and District Grass Court Championships. At her second attempt at the U.S. Championships, King made it to the third round, losing to Bernice Carr Vukovich of South Africa. Also in 1960, she reached the final of the National Girls’ 18 and Under Championships, losing to Karen Hantze Susmen.

Her national tennis ranking improved from number 19 in 1959 to number 4 in 1960.  Despite the success, Marble terminated her professional relationship with King, for reasons stemming from King’s ambition. 

King first gained international recognition in 1961 when the Long Beach Tennis Patrons, the Century Club, and Harold Guiver raised $2,000 to send her to Wimbledon.

There, she won the Women’s Doubles title in her first attempt while partnering Karen Hantze. King was 17 and Hantze was 18, making them the youngest team to win the Wimbledon Doubles Title. (TBR)