Influential Women in Tennis

Influential Women in Tennis
Tennis was once thought of as a high society sport played by affluent country club members dressed in all white. In reality it truly was a game for rich white men. In those early days, women were nowhere to be found on the tennis court.

Fast forward to equal prize money for women at all of the four Grand Slam tournaments. The women’s game is exciting and fast with finesse and strategy not found in the men’s game. Women do not, and cannot, complete directly with men for obvious physical reasons, but we can and should appreciate the differences, and what they do bring to the game.

There have been many notable women who have contributed to growing the sport of tennis. Here are some of the most famous ladies of tennis who have made their mark on the game.

Billie Jean King
Billie Jean King is best known as winner of “Battle of the Sexes” against Bobby Riggs, founder of the women’s professional WTA tour, and advocate of equal prize money for women. In addition to winning multiple Grand Slam singles titles, King has been named Associated Press “Female Athlete of the Year”, Sports Illustrated “Sportsman of the Year” and Time’s “Person of the Year”, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and has tirelessly promoted the game of tennis. The USTA National Tennis Center in New York City was renamed the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

Althea Gibson
Althea Gibson was the first African American woman to win a Grand Slam tennis title, winning multiple Grand Slam singles and doubles titles, but despite her success, found it difficult to compete as a woman of color. Gibson went on to become the first African American to join the women’s professional golf tour, where she was once again faced with racism despite breaking many course records. Only after her death was Gibson recognized for her accomplishments, inducted into the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame and the International Tennis Hall of Fame, and her five Wimbledon trophies are now displayed at the Smithsonian.

Martina Navratilova
A young teenage who defected from Czechoslovakia for a better life in the US, Navratilova made great strides in advancing the game of women’s tennis to be a more physical sport. She introduced fitness and nutrition to tour athletes which allowed women participants to take the sport to a higher level. Navratilova was the most dominant women’s tennis player for five consecutive seasons, enjoyed an illustrious career, and won her last Grand Slam doubles title at the age of 49.

Martina Hingis
Named for Martina Navratilova, Martina Hingis made her mark on the women’s tennis world not for her physical stature and power, but for her strong mind and court sense. She brought an all-court game with variety to combat the new wave of power hitters. Hingis was the youngest ever Grand Slam winner and world No. 1, and her staying power is unrivaled, still active and winning Grand Slam doubles titles well into her 30’s.

Serena Williams
The Williams Sisters have engrained their style and brand of tennis into the history of women’s tennis forever. They are African American, they are sisters, they are from the poor and humble beginnings, and they both became successful Grand Slam champions by developing their game unlike any other with “go for broke” mentality. The younger sister, Serena, is proving to be the more dominant sister and is nearly unbeatable in her prime. She is considered by some as the greatest of all time.

Thanks to these women, and others, the sport of tennis is open for women to participate, to compete, to have a career, and for fun.

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