WTA 50: A half-century that changed tennis

Over the past half century, women’s tennis has produced some great figures who have achieved monumental achievements in the history of white sport.

Photo: Sebastian Alfonso Torres Martinez

Nine women, with one dollar each, decided it was time to fight back against inequality in tennis and change the role of women in the sport. In 1970, Billie Jean King became frustrated with sexism in white sports and recognized the need for women to formally band together and take control of their own destinies.

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Along with Rosie Casals, nicknamed “The General” because of her belief in her decisions, they brought together Julie Heldman, Peaches Bartkovic, Judy Dalton, Kerry Melville, Nancy Rich, Valerie Ziegenfuss and Christie Pidgeon, became the “Original Nine”.

dawn of change

The 1970s sparked a rebellion against the sport, with female players risking their careers for a chance at higher pay and recognition. During this time, he played an important role in the development of ideas and strategies, as well as in the actions to engage participants.

Faced with the threat of expulsion from the sport’s traditional governing bodies, which would have meant being stripped of their rankings and eligibility to play in the Grand Slams or the national team, the original nine kept their cool and signed $1 contracts, in the wake of Heldman’s Playing for the substitute team.

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Faced with an imminent threat, the women’s decision initiated the formation of the Virginia Slim Tour, the precursor to the modern Women’s Tennis Association (WTA). For three years, they traveled and competed in their own tournament, which, although professional, had the feel of the amateur era.

On September 20, 1973, King defeated former 1940s player Bobby Riggs in the iconic Battle of the Sexes, which showed that most women were on the same athletic level as men.

Thirteen months after King’s victory over Riggs, Congress passed the Equal Credit Opportunity Act. Women can now apply for credit cards independently. She played a role in the decision, from the revolutionary efforts of the original Nine to the founding of the WTA and the growing popularity of the tour, and from that year on, women had their own association for the first time.

1980: The age of competition

In the craze for equality, young tennis players began training and began to succeed in all competitions. Undoubtedly, the two most important players of the decade were Americans Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, who launched a rivalry that helped define the history of women’s tennis.

For Evert and Navratilova, facing each other week in and week out is just part of life. As the No. 1 and No. 2 players for most of their careers, they never shied away from each other and were happy to have their friends on the other side of the court.

ChrissyAged 63, lost only 4 games in 25 games navigationThings changed in 1978 for Navratilova, now 61, during the first five years of their rivalry. That July, Navratilova defeated Evert in the Wimbledon final to win her first title, ending Evert’s run as world No. 1. This is their second meeting in a Grand Slam final, with 12 more to come.

Martina Navratilova vs. Chris Evert: 1978 Wimbledon Final (Extended Highlights)

From 1973 to 1988, Navratilova and Evert played against each other 80 times, 60 of which reached the finals. Bjorn Borg and McEnroe played 14 matches in an epic showdown; Rafael Nadal and Federer met 20 times.

They met in Grand Slam finals 14 times, the first of which came 15 months after their meeting in Akron: Evert in the 1975 French Open final, 2-6, 6-2, 6- 1 wins.

After years of hard work on the court, Navratilova led 43-37 at the end of the game. Although their first meeting was in the first round, Evert and Navratilova met in the finals for a staggering 60 games, 36 of which Navratilova won.

The Rise and Struggle of the Williams Sisters

The origin story of two of the best athletes in history was born on the mean streets of Compton, California, where Venus and Serena Williams chose to practice a tradition rather than a traditional one in the African-American community. sports. However, despite financial and social difficulties, their father Richard remained responsible for their training.

Williams’ eldest son, Venus, turned pro in 1994, followed by Serena a year later. Serena’s burning desire to win is one of the most charming things about her. Even when playing Venus, she pulls no punches. The power the two sisters bring to the game is paralyzing, especially when they’re shooting at each other.

As they rose rapidly in the courtroom, they knew they had to use their visibility to fight for equality and the rights of the communities to which they belonged. Venus Williams, the first black woman to be ranked No. 1 in the world. In 2007, he published an opinion piece in the London Times calling for equality at Wimbledon, the most traditional Grand Slam tournament.

Dare to Dream | Venus Williams’ first Wimbledon title

Thirty years have passed since the original Nine took a stand. The following year, when Williams won her fourth title, she finally became the first woman to earn the same salary as the men’s singles champion.

Serena Williams is one of the greatest athletes in history and one of the most passionate advocates for social and racial justice. Like Billie Jean King, she left a legacy that transformed tennis on and off the court.

Despite the odds, she was determined to change that, especially as a black woman who thrived in a sport where white men were particularly prominent. Although Serena has left the courtroom, her name still resonates in courtrooms around the world. Few come close to the level of one of the most iconic athletes in history.

During this period, no two players left a greater legacy than Williams. Starting in 1997, she achieved incredible excellence over 20 years. Venus and Serena are so tenacious that they end up competing against the players they use as role models.

The arrival of a new index

After years of dominance by Team Williams, players from all over the world began arriving with the goal of stopping Venus and Serena. One of the main figures was Maria Sharapova, who at the age of 17 defeated the youngest of her sisters at Wimbledon. From 2004 to 2019, when Masha announced her retirement, the Russians became a headache for Americans.

Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, a two-time Australian Open champion (2012-2013), also made an appearance. Vika accompanied Serena and Sharapova to the podium at the 2012 London Olympics, and despite her mother’s words, the 33-year-old is still going strong.

Germany’s Angelique Kerber, who became the WTA’s No. 1 player, won her first of three Grand Slam titles at the 2016 Australian Open, which she won at the U.S. Open that year and Wimbledon in 2018. There was a win in the Open.

Gradually, tennis players of different nationalities began to arrive and began to mark “diversity” on the circuit. Spanish player Garbiñe Muguruza won the French Open (Roland Garros) in 2016 and Wimbledon (Wimbledon) in 2017. Additionally, Latvian player Jelena Ostapenko won her first title in 2017 when she won Roland Garros at Roland Garros.

Canadian Bianca Andreescu, American Sofia Kenin and Czech Barbora Krejcikova win at the 2019 US Open, 2020 Australian Open and 2021 French Open Both demonstrated a wide range of technical and tactical differences in the process.

Emma Raducanu emerged from qualifying to win the 2021 U.S. Open with perhaps the most incredible victory of all time, a victory that made her the first since 1977 A British woman who won a singles Grand Slam title.

What does the future look like?

Current players like Iga Swiatek, Aryna Sabalenka, Elena Rybakina and Coco Gauff, who are just 19 years old, are starting their careers in completely different and encouraging circumstances than they were at the beginning of the cycle. His youth and desire to continue the tennis revolution have broken barriers beyond the sporting world.

In an era when defying the odds and making a voice heard is more important than ever, the achievements of 1973 still live on in the spirit of the new players. The original nine wanted to do three things for future generations. The first is that they have a training facility that is comparable to the Men’s Sports Center.

Second, women are recognized for their achievements and not just their appearance. Finally, they can make a living playing professional tennis. Today’s players are living the dream that team had 50 years ago.

Over half a century, women’s tennis has achieved some milestones. In 1976, Chris Evert became the first female athlete to earn more than $1 million in career bonuses, and in 1982, Martina Navratilova became the first female athlete to earn more than $1 million in career bonuses. athlete.

In 1994, Anne Worcester became the first female CEO of a major sports league; in 2007, Venus Williams joined the movement for equal prize money across all four leagues , decades of struggle finally bore fruit: a Grand Slam.

The WTA was born not only to change tennis history, but to rewrite it. Billie Jean King and the eight women who supported her in creating the organization were pioneers of a new scene in women’s sports. They know better than anyone that equality is a cause that never stands still.

Of course, one text is not enough to capture everything that hundreds of players have achieved on and off the pitch. The list is long, and future generations hope to follow the path paved by those tennis players who were perhaps the reason they fell in love with the white man’s sport.

For Billie Jean King, all that’s left is to thank her for 50 years of progress and pave the way for another 50 years of progress.

🚴🏻⚽🏀 The latest sports? : Everything you need to know about world sport, in The Observer

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