Tennis legend Billie Jean King says she is proud that women's tennis remains the leader when it comes to equality for women's sport. King, who was the pioneer for the WTA Tour in 1973, was speaking at the Fed Cup draw on Tuesday.
The Fed Cup Finals has been revamped to have a new format in 2020 - with the Finals taking place in Budapest, Hungary in April with 12 nations competing for the title. Speaking to Reuters, King says, "This is an unbelievable opportunity for the next three years.
It makes me very proud that women's tennis is showing that it's still the leader in women's sports. That means a lot to me, se we must continue to be that." Comparing the new format to the competition when she was playing, King says that she was paid daily expenses to cover dinner while the winning team in Budapest will share $3.2 million with $1.2 million going to the winning federation.
Every team out of the 12 teams in the finals will earn at least $500,000. "That's how it was, we were amateurs. But I was desperate to have our name first on the trophy. That first Fed Cup featured 16 nations, total. This year 116 started out.
That gives you a measure of the huge growth. And the new format? It's huge. The players wanted one less week in the calendar, they got that. And they wanted more money, and the ITF came up with the money. It's equal with Davis Cup which is a very important message because the ITF has really basically governed themselves to have equality, to make sure they are fighting for equality.
They are not just talking, they are showing." King said women's tennis is an example for all other sports, especially for those in the United States. "We need all women's sport thriving. Baseball is 150 years old, NFL is a 100 years old and NHL is 100 years old this year, and there's no women's leagues!
That's another thing on my brain to try and figure out. We took our stance 50 years ago. We were going to get suspended. We didn't know what would happen to us but we fought like crazy for three things: to have a place to compete, to be appreciated for accomplishments, not just looks, and to make a living. That was the dream for future generations and they are living it now."