Understanding the Birth of Women’s Professional Tennis: Who Are the Original 9?
Nine trailblazing women changed the tennis landscape half a century ago. They challenged gender bias in their sport and established the Open Era, paving the way for professional tennis as we know it today. These brave athletes were basically playing tennis against the system. Let’s explore who these exceptional women are.
Popularly known as “The Original 9”, this group of fierce champions defied conventions and risked their careers to create equal opportunities for women in tennis. The trailblazers include Billie Jean King, Kerry Melville Reid, Judy Tegart Dalton, Rosie Casals, Valerie Ziegenfuss, Peaches Bartkowicz, Julie Heldman, Kristy Pigeon, and Nancy Richey.
A Grand Slam Initiative: Defying the Lawn Tennis Troubles
Aside from their impressive range of Grand Slam singles, the Original 9 stood up against financial discrimination from the association responsible for big tournaments – the Lawn Tennis Association. Rosie Casals’ revolutionary act of Casals won an outspoken critic in the form of the US Lawn Tennis Association, which did not look kindly on women challenging their pay structure.
The disparity in prize money between male and female players led to a revolt. Frustrated with the male-dominated Lawn Tennis Association’s paltry prize money for women, nine women players set about to make a change. With an initial plan of creating their own tennis circuit, they each signed symbolic $1 contracts with Gladys Heldman, the publisher of World Tennis magazine.
Billie Jean King: A Trailblazer in Women’s Tennis
Billie Jean King, undoubtedly one of the most decorated tennis players in history, led the Original 9 in their fight for equal recognition and pay in professional tennis. She insisted that the women players deserve more than just a fraction of men’s prize money.
One of her extraordinary contributions is pushing for the formation of the Virginia Slims Circuit, a series of tournaments dedicated to women’s professional tennis. The goal was to bridge the gap in earning opportunities for male and female tennis players, and King bravely spearheaded the movement.
Empowered Women Empower Women: Judy Tegart Dalton
Judy Tegart Dalton, an Australian Open champion, was another member of the Original 9 who played a pivotal role in shaping the present-day professional women’s tour. Even at the peak of her career, she made a daring stand in support of equality and was instrumental in the creation of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA).
Dalton was undeterred by the threats of the International Lawn Tennis Federation to suspend players joining the Virginia Slims Circuit. Instead, she used this as a motivation to continue the fight for the tennis equality movement passionately.
Other Heroes of the Original 9: Kerry Melville Reid, Rosie Casals and Chris Evert
The Original 9 included several other champions too. Kerry Melville Reid, for instance, was an Australian tennis champion who ranked as high as World No. 5 in her prime. Rosie Casals, on the other hand, was a top American player whose impressive record include Casals won nine Grand Slam doubles titles.
Chris Evert was not technically part of the Original 9 but she did join the Virginia Slims Circuit later, which helped popularize it. Evert went on to be known as one of the greatest female tennis players of the Open Era with her technically clean and consistent style.
Defying Disparity: The Role of Gladys and Julie Heldman
Mother and daughter duo, Gladys and Julie Heldman, played significant roles in the fight for equal prize money. Gladys Heldman, as the publisher of World Tennis magazine, provided the newly-formed women’s circuit a platform and financial backing.
Julie Heldman’s role in the Original 9 was equally crucial. As one of the top players in women’s tennis, she used her voice and platform to demand equality in prize money. Her contribution to establishing the Virginia Slims circuit was essential for the expansion of women’s professional tennis.
The Further Contributions of Valerie Ziegenfuss and Peaches Bartkowicz
Two more members of the Original 9, Valerie Ziegenfuss and Peaches Bartkowicz, are often discussed less frequently than peers like Bill Jean King or Judy Tegart Dalton. Nevertheless, their contributions were just as crucial. Both Ziegenfuss and Bartkowicz were standout American tennis players who took up the cause of gender equality in professional tennis.
Proud and unyielding, Ziegenfuss and Bartkowicz joined their fellow tennis players in championing the need for equal recognition and pay and have since left their marks on the world of professional tennis.
1. Who are the original 9 in women’s tennis?
The Original 9 refers to nine women who broke away from the existing tennis establishment in demand for equal pay. The nine women include Billie Jean King, Kerry Melville Reid, Judy Tegart Dalton, Rosie Casals, Valerie Ziegenfuss, Peaches Bartkowicz, Julie Heldman, Kristy Pigeon, and Nancy Richey.
2. What major titles did Judy Tegart Dalton win?
Judy Tegart Dalton was an exceptional tennis player who won nine Grand Slam Doubles titles and reached the finals of Australian Open singles.
3. How many Grand Slam singles titles did Rosie Casals win?
While Rosie Casals won numerous titles, especially in doubles, she did not win any Grand Slam singles titles.
4. Who was Gladys Heldman?
Gladys Heldman was the founder of World Tennis magazine. She played a significant role in supporting the Original 9 and leading the establishment of the Virginia Slims Circuit.
5. What was the contribution of Chris Evert to women’s professional tennis?
Chris Evert, while not a part of the Original 9, joined the Virginia Slims Circuit later and helped popularize it. Evert is considered one of the greatest female tennis players of the Open Era.
6. Who won the Australian Open among the Original 9?
Kerry Melville Reid is the member of the Original 9 who won the Australian Open singles title in 1977.
7. Were there any penalties for the Original 9 for forming the Virginia Slims Circuit?
Yes, the Original 9 were threatened with suspension by the International Lawn Tennis Federation for participating in the Virginia Slims Circuit.
8. Who was the publisher of World Tennis magazine?
Gladys Heldman was the publisher of World Tennis magazine. She played a crucial role in backing the Original 9 in their fight for equal prize money.
9. How much was the prize money disparity in tennis during the Open Era?
During the Open Era, women were paid a fraction of the prize money that men received. The Original 9 led a revolution to change this practice.
10. Who were Valerie Ziegenfuss and Peaches Bartkowicz?
Valerie Ziegenfuss and Peaches Bartkowicz were part of the Original 9. They were prominent American tennis players who played pivotal roles in fighting for equal recognition and pay in professional tennis.