Billie Jean King was a champion American tennis player who won a total of 39 grand slam titles during her illustrious career. Jean King also played a key role in the fight for greater equality between men and women’s tennis.
Of her 39 grand slam titles, 20 were achieved at Wimbledon. She had an aggressive, impatient style. She hit the ball very hard and was quick to come to the net. It was this style of tennis that perfectly suited the Wimbledon grass courts.
In 1961, she first appeared at Wimbledon as a young tennis player named Billie Jean Moffat. She continued to play at Wimbledon on 22 occasions during 23 years. She was a firm favorite of the crowd and in the early days was better known at Wimbledon than in her home country. She played a total of 265 matches at Wimbledon in both singles, doubles, and mixed doubles.
In 1974, she took part in one of tennis’ most famous encounters – dubbed ‘The Battle of the Sexes.’ Bobby Riggs was a former number one tennis player. Now 55, he boasted that the men’s game was so superior to the women’s game that he could easily beat any of the best women players of the time. Initially, Billie Jean King was fearful of playing because she felt if she lost it would put women’s tennis back 50 years.
However, after Bobby Riggs beat Margaret Court (who was her great opponent and beat her twice in grand slam final), Jean King took up the challenge at Houston Astrodome in Texas.
Throughout her career, Billie Jean King campaigned for better pay and recognition for female tennis players.
For her efforts related to elevating tennis, she was also named as one of the 100 most influential Americans of the 20th Century by Time Magazine.
Since her retirement, she has worked for GBLT and is an active promoter of Gay and Lesbian rights in America. She also serves on the Women’s Sports Foundation and the Elton John AIDS campaign.
In 2007, she launched Green Slam an organization trying to make tennis more environmentally aware.