The inspirational Billie Jean King will return to the Australian Open in 2018.
On the 50th anniversary of her 6-1 6-2 victory over Margaret Court in the women’s final , King will lead a number of celebrations and events during the tournament.
A longtime advocate for gender equality and social justice, King was one of the founding members of professional tennis as we know it today. In 1970 she led a group of nine courageous women to take on the establishment and set up a women’s tennis tour, which eventually became the WTA.
In 1973, King won what would become one of the most high-profile matches ever, the famous ‘Battle of the Sexes’ against Bobby Riggs, now depicted in the hit movie of the same name.
Regarded by many as one of the greatest players of all time, King was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1987, received the Fed Cup Award of Excellence in 2010 and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
In 2006 the USTA re-named New York’s National Tennis Center, home of the US Open, the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
King will be a special guest at the Australian Open Inspirational Series on women’s semifinals day, Thursday 25 January. She will speak at workshops during the morning and host a panel discussion at Rod Laver Arena prior to the women’s semifinals.
“I’m delighted to welcome the inspirational Billie Jean back to Melbourne for the first time in a number of years,” Australian Open Tournament Director Craig Tiley said.
“Billie Jean is a passionate advocate for equality and has been an incredible role model for many years.
“With the help of Billie Jean, tennis has led the way for equality in terms of equal prize money, exposure and opportunity. And I believe now the conversation around women’s sport in general is finally starting to change in a very positive way.
“For several years now we’ve promoted the women’s semifinal as a showcase for women’s tennis, and for women’s sport. It’s incredible to think we will have four of the most high profile, and most likely highest paid, female athletes in the world in competition on Rod Laver Arena on one afternoon.
“For example this year we had both Serena and Venus Williams in action, against Mirjana Lucic Baroni, herself with an incredible comeback story, and rising American star, Coco Vandeweghe.
“As other sports have expanded opportunities for women, and promoted participation and performance, the appetite for elite women’s competition is increasing, and I hope to see many young girls and women inspired by the feats of these amazing athletes.