Billie Jean King

Billie Jean King was born in Long Beach on November 22, 1943.

Considered among the best tennis players in history, she won 78 WTA titles in her career; of these, 12 singles titles, 16 doubles titles and 11 mixed doubles titles are Grand Slam trials. She is also the founder of the Women's Tennis Association.

A keen supporter of the fight against sexism in sport and in society, she is remembered for the tennis match known as the battle of the se xes, which in 1973 saw her defeat tennis player Bobby Riggs, winner of the singles at Wimbledon and number 1 in the world among 1941 and 1947.

She was married to Lawrence King on September 17, 1965, whom she divorced in 1987. In 1966 King won the first of six singles titles at Wimbledon. The following year she managed to get both Wimbledon and US Open titles. She stood out for her aggressiveness at the net, thanks to excellent speed and a very competitive personality. She once said: "Winning is momentary. Losing is forever."

King was one of the pillars of the opening of tennis to professionalism. Before the open era began in 1968, she earned $100 a week as a tennis instructor and she was a student at California State University, Los Angeles while she competed in major tennis tournaments. In 1967 she criticized the United States Tennis Association (USTA) in a series of press conferences, denouncing what she called "Shamateurism" (from shame, shame), i.e. the too low compensation by the association to players so that they could not allow them to enter tournaments. King strongly supported her argument against the corruption of the association that made the game extremely elitist.

King retired from singles tournaments in late 1983.In 1971 she began an intimate relationship with a hairdresser (who later became her secretary), Marilyn Barnett. She acknowledged the relationship a decade later when it publicly emerged during an asset lawsuit filed by Barnett.

In a PBS program broadcast on March 20, 2005, she stated that affirming her se xual orientation was the biggest struggle of her life, adding that she grew up in a traditionalist family, which prevented her from expressing her orientation openly, unlike less inhibited players like Martina Navratilova.