Tennis legend Billie Jean King has been named as one of USA TODAY's Women of the Century. The former World No. 1 has been one of the most infulential figures in tennis history. Not only for her Grand Slam wins on the court, but for her achievements off the court.
King was one of the key figures behind starting the WTA Tour in the 1970s.
Billie Jean King on starting the WTA Tour
In the interview, Billie Jean King talks about how she and the Original Nine came together to start the WTA Tour.
Besides King, the Original Nine included Rosie Casals, Nancy Richey, Judy Dalton, Kerry Melville Reid, Julie Heldman, Peaches Bartkowicz, Kristy Pigeon and Valerie Ziegenfuss Speaking to USA Today, King says, "When tennis became professional in '68, my former husband kept saying: "When it goes professional, the men will try to get rid of you.
They don't want you around. They want all the money that's available." And I said, "No, they're my friends." And he goes, "Billie, the old-boy network will not stand for it." He was right.
He was totally right. And I was totally wrong. I was giving the benefit of the doubt to the men that I knew and cared about. And they did not come through. It was terrible. They all said, "Go home, take care of your husband" or that "The money belongs to us.
Nobody will want to see you guys play anyway." The night of (the "Original Nine" players) signing a $1 contract with Gladys Heldman was the birth of women's professional tennis the way you know it today.
The reason Serena Williams has $92 million in prize money and a lot more off the court is because of that moment in time, when we were willing to take a chance. If we never get to play Wimbledon, U.S. Open or any tournament again, we did not care.
We had had it. Some of the women were hesitant. I kept saying, "We have bupkis, we have bupkis. I'm telling you we have nothing, so we have nothing to lose." I get too much credit. We did it as a team. And today it is the reason women are making money and everybody has a pathway."
Billie Jean King also spoke about how she has overcome adversity in her life. "For me, it's my faith, my friends, having enough courage to go to therapy. I'm huge on visualization. That's all I do. When I play tennis, I visualize everything.
I visualize my goals, my 30,000-foot goal. That's what I'm best at. Another thing I think is really important, and I've done this most of my life, is don't take things personally, because it's about the person who said it, it's not about you.
And I think that's helped me. Forgive yourself. Forgive others. Just let people be. They're human. Just be forgiving. Just keep moving. Life's too short. There's so much to do and accomplish before I'm out of here."
Billie Jean King won 39 Grand Slam titles: 12 in singles, 16 in women's doubles, and 11 in mixed doubles in her career. (Picture via the Twitter account of Billie Jean King)