King celebrates 40th ahead of 70th

Associated Press  |  Last updated September 10, 2013

VILLANOVA, PA - OCTOBER 3: Tennis pro Billie Jean King and musician Elton John speak during the 10th Anniversary World Team Tennis Smash Hits Press Conference October 3, 2002 in Villanova, Pennsylvania. Proceeds from the event benefit several AIDS charities. (Photo by William Thomas Cain/Getty Images)
For Billie Jean King, 70 is the new 40. The tennis great, who turns 70 in November, has been celebrating the 40th anniversary of equal prize money at the U.S. Open, the formation of the WTA tour and her victory against Bobby Riggs in the ''Battle of the Sexes'' match. King was 29 when she accomplished those feats in 1973. On Tuesday, PBS will highlight her career with the national premiere of ''American Masters: Billie Jean King.'' The series' first profile of a sports figure focuses on the professional tennis tour's start amid the women's movement and features interviews with Gloria Steinem, Chris Evert, King's doubles partner Rosie Casals and her brother Randy Moffitt, a former pitcher for the San Francisco Giants. Thanks to King's efforts, Serena Williams earned a check for $2.6 million - the same as Rafael Nadal - for winning the U.S. Open. Here's a five-part Q-and-A with King, who these days is giving tips to young tennis players Sloane Stephens and Victoria Duval: Q: You received about two-thirds less in prize money for winning Wimbledon in 1968 compared with Rod Laver. What kind of leverage did it take to get equal prize money at the U.S. Open in 1973? A: The U.S. Open was way ahead of its time, actually, compared to how long it took the other three majors to come around (Australian 2000, French and Wimbledon 2007). We did it quietly, behind the scenes. There were two sponsors who said they would make it equal - they would put in the money to make up the difference. I said, ''Now we're talking, because now we're talking business.'' Q: Why were sports an effective way to express what the women's movement was about in the 1970s, especially the tennis match you won against Riggs? A: I talk about feminists, how they were all from the neck up in the `70s. This was not from the neck up, it was the whole body. It's very important for people to trust their bodies. It was the first time women started to think about all of themselves, instead of just their brains. It's really about their physicality. Sports is very different from other performing arts because you can't rehearse, you have an opponent and you sweat. Q: You wanted the men's and women's tours to team up in the 1970s. Why do you believe the WTA managed to flourish and become such a successful global enterprise? A: I think because we had to and we showed that there is a market for women's sports. This wasn't really about me and the few of us, this was about the future generations. We had great early leadership. Did I want the men and women together to have one voice? Absolutely. But the men rejected us and that's life and so you go to Plan B. Everybody pulled together eventually and we made it happen. We also have a mentoring program, which I think is really important for the women. I do a power hour, two sessions every U.S. Open. They bring in a lot of the young players, our future top 10 or 20. We talk about the history, we connect. As rookies, they have to learn the history of the WTA. All of those things combined add up to the cohesiveness that we have as women athletes in the WTA. Q: What are your thoughts on gay rights in Russia and a possible boycott ahead of the Sochi Olympics? A: You have to ask the athletes and whatever they decide. I've talked to some of them and they're trying to figure out what's best. They believe in no discrimination at all, in anything, especially sexual orientation. I'm not the athlete trying to go there and win a medal in the Winter Olympics. I can't walk in their shoes, exactly. I personally, as an athlete, would be very happy not to go to protest. But am I doing more good by going and being there or doing things with it or am I better off not to? That's always the challenge.'' Q: Could you have imagined the accomplishments in your life? A: I knew as a youngster I wanted to be No. 1 in tennis. I knew by 12 my platform would be tennis, but my real life was going to be wrapped around equality and social justice. I felt like I had a tremendous sense of destiny. As King points out in the documentary, ''I know I'm very idealistic. I'm off the charts on it. But that's OK - I think that's what keeps me going. I've been yelling and screaming that I've got one big thing left in me.''
Is Serena Williams the most important modern athlete?
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Olympic wrestler turned ISIS recruit killed in U.S. drone strike

Report: Jamaal Charles to play Sunday against Steelers

Dez Bryant says he will not play Sunday against 49ers

Bill O’Brien officially rules J.J. Watt out for season

Report: Eric Decker out Sunday with partial tear in rotator cuff


Report: Browns planning to part ways with Josh Gordon

Noah skips dinner at West Point because he's anti-war

Giants could use wide receiver at safety against Vikings

Ryan Tannehill does not mince words regarding offense

Russell Wilson on playing Sunday against Jets: ‘No doubt’

Report: Tyson Fury failed drug test, will be stripped of title belts

Combing through the crowded 2016 MLB MVP races

The Blue Jays and the meaning of a late season freefall

CFB Crash Course: Week 5 - Less one Les

Box Score: 9/30 - Dolphins, Popovich and MLB umps

Seven most absurd stats heading into NFL Week 4

Antonio Brown to honor Arnold Palmer with custom cleats

The best and worst from the 2016 World Cup of Hockey

Players Jurgen Klinsmann may call up for USMNT friendlies

Byron Scott has no relationship with D’Angelo Russell

Steve Kerr favors shorter NBA preseason to limit back-to-backs

Flaws of MLB replay system exposed in Cardinals’ victory

NBA winners and losers: Gregg Popovich as a voice of reason

Tennis News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Combing through the crowded 2016 MLB MVP races

The Blue Jays and the meaning of a late season freefall

CFB Crash Course: Week 5 - Less one Les

NBA winners and losers: Gregg Popovich as a voice of reason

WATCH: Will LSU have to sell its soul to find its next head coach?

The clubhouse leaders for MLB Rookies of the Year

Goodbye, Ted: 20 years of highs and lows at Turner Field

Forza Horizon 3 review: Going Top Gear

NFL Kickoff Week 4: Guess what? The NFL is dying again

WNBA semifinals preview: Will the rust show for Lynx, Sparks?

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Follow Yardbarker