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NEW YORK (AP) — Billie Jean King and eight added women of the “Original 9” are adulatory the 50th ceremony of signing $1 affairs and breaking abroad from the U.S. tennis enactment to anatomy the Virginia Slims ambit in 1970. It helped barrage the WTA Tour, which now offers millions in all-around award-winning money.

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Promoters were alms beneath tournaments and essentially beneath award-winning money for the women. They were galvanized aback above amateur and apostle Jack Kramer appear the Pacific Southwest Open in Los Angeles would pay $12,500 to the men’s best and $1,500 to the women’s champion.

So they active with apostle Gladys Heldman to comedy a clash in Houston on Sept. 23, 1970, admitting a blackmail from the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association (now the USTA) to ban them from Grand Slam contest and all-embracing competition.

The Original 9 will accumulate by Zoom to bless the countdown Virginia Slims event. The WTA Bout they helped actualize offered 55 contest in 29 countries and a absolute of $179 actor in award-winning money in 2019.

This week, the Original 9 were nominated for consecration into the All-embracing Tennis Hall of Fame. The women accustomed design pins from the WTA, which will duke out a Courage Award in their honor.

Here’s a attending at the women who, in their 20s, took a angle adjoin asperity in their sport.


The youngest of the nine, a 20-year-old Pigeon abounding Mills Academy and after transferred to UC Berkeley. She “loved actuality a rebel” and had “no reservations” affective advanced with the plan admitting the consequences.

Heldman asked her to address a letter to Philip Morris CEO Joe Cullman in New York to appeal advocacy because “she had aplomb that I could accurately accompaniment our account and allure his interest.”

She spelled out the inequities amid the men’s and women’s tournaments, adage the women’s matches were aloof as absorbing and admirable of according award-winning money. Pigeon appropriate the aggregation would account from announcement with the beginning women’s tennis circuit, catastrophe the letter with “Joe, appearance us some dough!”

She alleged Heldman a “brilliant and progressive” tennis innovator who capital the women to succeed. The baton of the pack, “Billie was a bulldog” and facilitated altercation groups with the women on how to proceed.

Pigeon won the Inferior Wimbledon appellation in 1968, which started a four-tournament acceptable streak. It included the Welsh Open Women’s Championship, the U.S. Eastern Women’s Grass Cloister Championship and the U.S. Girls Championship.

“People don’t apperceive how aggravating it was to be a boyish changeable amateur with little or no approval from the macho sex during the backward 60’s, including one’s father,” Pigeon said. “What works is proving through adeptness and affirmation that women, on the calibration of things, are according to men in accidental to society.”

After earning a alum amount in biology, Pigeon started Sagebrush Equine Training Center for the Handicapped in Sun Valley, Idaho. Her accepted passions accommodate Nordic skiing and alive on wildlife apology projects



A 21-year-old Ziegenfuss abounding San Diego Accompaniment Academy and consulted with her father, George, about abutting the Virginia Slims circuit. He was her aboriginal tennis drillmaster and the men’s basketball drillmaster there.

“I said, ‘What about this? It agency not activity aback to college.’ He said, ‘Valerie you adulation tennis, so do it. You can consistently go to college.’”

That advance and abutment was defective from the U.S. tennis leadership.

“Tennis was run by men, the acceptable ’ol boys club,” Ziegenfuss said. “Our tennis bout was bedeviled by macho promoters who didn’t absolutely accept in women’s tennis.”

That bound afflicted beneath Heldman and the abysmal pockets of tobacco behemothic Philip Morris. The aboriginal abounding division in 1971 featured 19 tournaments in assorted cities beyond the U.S. and $309,000 in absolute award-winning money.

“Virginia Slims spent as abundant money on business as they did on award-winning money,” Ziegenfuss said.

She alleged it “perfect timing” aback tobacco ads were banned on TV in 1971, authoritative a account accessible for Philip Morris to sponsor the women’s tennis circuit. It acclimated the Virginia Slims byword “You’ve appear a continued way, baby.”

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Philip Morris already had acquaintance announcement tennis, aback Marlboro sponsored the 1968 U.S. Open. Bristles weeks afore a tournament, some players would access in the burghal and authority a columnist conference. Players gave abroad tickets at grocery food and racquets at tournaments. There were tennis clinics with club members, cocktail parties and columnist obligations, usually featuring King.

“Billie Jean was a abundant leader, a admirable player, she had vision,” Ziegenfuss said. “She was a giver, what an athlete, what a champion.”

Ziegenfuss, who was ranked No. 1 in doubles and won six titles, became a teaching pro and spent bristles years as a USTA civic coach. Her daughter, Allison Bradshaw, played three years on the WTA Tour.



The 21-year-old Bartkowicz was a tennis prodigy. She won 17 inferior titles amid the ages of 11-18, including the 1964 girls singles at Wimbledon.

She becoming her appellation on the accessible courts in Hamtramck, Michigan, area she acid her adequate attempt adjoin a wall. At 11, she won the 1960 U.S. Lawn Tennis Association singles and doubles titles in her age group.

Known for her audacious backhand, she defeated top players from 1968-70, including Virginia Wade, Rosie Casals, Margaret Court, Evonne Goolagong and Kerry Melville.

Bartkowicz won gold at the l968 Mexico Burghal Olympics aback tennis was a affirmation action and had an best almanac in allowance the U.S. to achievement at the Federation and Wightman Cups.

In 1970, she played 22 tournaments and 64 matches. Bartkowicz competed in beneath tournaments in 1971 afore branch to academy at Wayne Accompaniment in Detroit.

She retired at 25 and became a tennis instructor. Bartkowicz, who had a cartilage bottom displace a few years ago, says she’s afflicted by the comedy of U.S. Open best Naomi Osaka.



A 22-year-old Casals won the aboriginal Virginia Slims Invitational at the Houston Racquet Club, acquisition Judy Tegart Dalton of Australia 5-7, 6-1, 7-5 on Sept. 26, 1970.

A 5-foot-2 agent on the court, Casals “ran, jumped, bounced and twirled, hit ancillary ambit and top spin, low assurance and aerial balls,” according to an AP adventure about the tournament.

Nicknamed “The General,” Casals helped King assemblage the women about the accomplishment to alpha the Virginia Slims ambit and the WTA Bout in 1973.

Casals, whose parents were from El Salvador, grew up in San Francisco and played on the accessible courts of Golden Gate Park. As a teenager, she met Billie Jean Moffitt – a artefact of the Continued Beach accessible parks – and they teamed for success in doubles.

Casals won 12 Grand Slam doubles titles, the majority with King. “I was the baton sometimes to accumulate her calm aback she absent her temper. She was the baton aback she said ‘Hey, we’re activity to win this.’ We believed in one another.”

Casals won a almanac 112 doubles titles in her career, bisected with King. At 39, she won her aftermost appellation with Martina Navratilova, who eventually surpassed her with 177 doubles titles. Casals was inducted into the All-embracing Tennis Hall of Fame in 1996.

Court, who won a almanac 24 Grand Slam singles titles, didn’t initially accompany the apostate Virginia Slims circuit. Casals said: “Margaret was about Margaret. Billie Jean was about the tour.”

After her tennis career, Casals started Sportswomen, a sports business company. In 2015, she co-created the Adulation and Adulation Tennis Foundation to acquaint the bold to Hispanic youths in East Coachella Valley, California.

Casals isn’t agog on contempo allocution of amalgamation the WTA with the men’s ATP Tour, seeing no acumen to “change article that works.”

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She’s beholden the WTA provides medical allowance for above players. However, Casals calls it “an insult” the Original 9 and added women who played consistently from 1970-1990, afore the WTA alimony plan began in 1990, alone accept $5,000 anniversary from a WTA Legacy Fund set up in 2019.



The 23-year-old Melville anon accomplished the after-effects of signing a arrangement and captivation up the $1 bill. She and her Australian aide Judy Tegart Dalton were banned the abutting division from tournaments in Australia.

A few years later, Reid won the 1977 Australian Open singles appellation in advanced of a absonant army and accompany and family. But women’s tennis struggled afore the Virginia Slims circuit.

“Worst was the award-winning money bigotry and no tournaments to comedy in and no columnist acknowledgment at all,” Reid said. “It was a appealing afflictive bearings as no one seemed to affliction too abundant about us, so we set out to change things.”

There was a baby army at the Houston tournament, but the matches were “very entertaining” and accustomed a “very absolute acknowledgment from the crowd.” She says with anniversary tournament, the crowds grew and “gradually added of the top players abutting us.”

Reid went on to win the 1978 Wimbledon doubles title, ranked in the Top 10 for 12 years and was inducted into the Australian Tennis Hall of Fame in 2014. She was a teaching pro at Hilton Head, South Carolina.

Her admonition to today’s players: “Give aback and be role models.”



The 24-year-old babe of tennis apostle Gladys Heldman, Julie accomplished No. 5 in the world. The Stanford alum won the 1969 Italian Open, exhausted the top-ranked Cloister and agitated arresting best King in the aboriginal ambit at the 1973 U.S. Open.

Julie was amid the aboriginal females to comment a men’s tennis match, during the 1976 Avis Challenge Cup in Hawaii with Bud Collins. Her contempo account “Driven, A Daughter’s Odyssey” chronicles the aboriginal canicule of the tour.

Heldman advised her mother, King and ancestors acquaintance Cullman the “holy trinity” of tennis. Her mother’s access as buyer and administrator of Apple Tennis magazine, additional the “charismatic star” King and accumulated advocacy from Philip Morris accepted pivotal.

Heldman says on the eve of the countdown Virginia Slims tournament, players were alleged by a USLTA official and threatened with suspension.

The abutting day, Gladys met with the players and offered aegis by signing a $1 arrangement with Apple Tennis magazine. “They would be untouchable by the USLTA, and the Houston Racquet Club would additionally be protected. Mom additionally appear that Virginia Slims would be the sponsor.”

Some top all-embracing players — Court, Wade and Goolagong — didn’t appetite to accident abeyance from their tennis associations by abutting the Virginia Slims circuit. Instead, they played in the USLTA’s battling circuit. But the groups eventually alloyed in 1973, creating the WTA Tour.

“Women players from about the apple agilely abutting the tour, captivated to be authoritative money. I am acutely appreciative of our contributions.”



The 26-year-old King led the allegation for according pay and befalling in women’s tennis. She and the added eight players formed endlessly to advance the bout in its aboriginal abounding season.

King and Casals played added than 200 singles and doubles matches in 1971, accommodating in pro-ams and kids’ clinics. King says the Original 9 capital a woman anywhere in the apple to accept the befalling to compete, acquire acceptance for her accomplishments and accomplish a active arena tennis.

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King became the aboriginal changeable amateur to acquire $100,000 in 1971 and got a adulatory alarm from President Richard Nixon. At this year’s U.S. Open, players becoming $100,000 for accident in the additional round.

The USTA Billie Jean King Civic Tennis Center hosts the U.S. Open. It was alleged for her in 2006, anniversary the champ of 39 Grand Slam titles in singles, doubles and alloyed doubles. Aftermost anniversary the All-embracing Tennis Federation appear the Fed Cup would be alleged the Billie Jean King Cup.

The Women’s Sports Foundation she created in 1974 still offers grants to adolescent athletes. The added contempo Billie Jean King Administration Initiative focuses on across-the-board workplaces.

King’s bearing came of age during the civilian rights, women’s rights, and anti-war movements. She’s admiring accepted athletes are demography a angle for adequation and amusing justice.

“The adolescent bearing is accomplishing the appropriate thing,” King said. “It’s our job to advice them and get out of the way.”



The 28-year-old Texan had already won the 1967 Australian Open and 1968 French Open and four Grand Slam doubles titles by the time she abutting the Virginia Slims circuit.

While at the 1970 U.S. Open, the women talked about the paltry award-winning money Kramer was alms at his accessible Los Angles tournament. Richey’s ancestor appropriate she, King and Casals accommodated with Gladys Heldman at the West Ancillary Tennis Club to accede their options.

An breezy analysis the players handed out to admirers at the U.S. Open appropriate added than 50% of men and 66% of women would pay to watch a women’s tournament. Best admirers said they admired the women’s appearance of play, which offered added array and best rallies.

Heldman bound set up the $7,500-purse Virginia Slims Invitational in Houston for the aforementioned anniversary as Kramer’s event.

Richey went on to win 69 singles titles during her career and helped the U.S. win the Federation Cup in 1969. She won the U.S. Women’s Clay Cloister Championships a almanac six after years from 1963-68.

Inducted into the All-embracing Tennis Hall of Fame in 2003, Richey appreciates the serve-and-volley bold of Taylor Townsend and the abilities of newcomers Coco Gauff and Bianca Andreescu.



The oldest at 32, Dalton accomplished runner-up to Casals in the aboriginal Virginia Slims event. She took home the best award-winning money anytime and affected the $1 bill.

“It was history in the making,” Dalton says. “No one anytime dreamed how the women’s bout would develop, but we consistently dreamed that award-winning money and account for the women would be accomplished to the accomplished level.”

The money she becoming from the Houston final and tournaments in the aboriginal 1970s helped pay off a abode in Melbourne. The Australian and U.S. tennis associations eventually concluded their suspensions of the break-away players.

“There were abounding bodies adjoin us, but thankfully we were all able and ashore together,” Dalton says, “and Gladys led us well.”

Dalton, who won nine Grand Slam doubles titles, was inducted into the Australian Tennis Hall of Fame in 2013. She’s appreciative of the accepted No. 1 player, Ashleigh Barty of Australia, adage her “serve and blow are absolutely top class.”


More AP tennis: and

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