Billie Jean King

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Former world number one professional tennis player, Billie Jean King was born on the 22nd of November 1943 in Long Beach, California. Billie Jean attended Long Beach Polytechnic High School. After graduating, she attended California State University, Los Angeles because her parents could not afford Stanford or the University Of Southern California.

 

In 1973, at age 29, she won the so-called Battle of the Sexes tennis match against the 55-year-old Bobby Riggs, and was the founder of the Women’s Tennis Association, World Team Tennis (with former husband Larry King), and the Women’s Sports Foundation.

 

During the first six months of their marriage, King stayed home in an attempt to be “a good wife,” as was the expectation at the time. But she was miserable. With her husband’s full support, she started hitting a few balls around again and soon completely dedicated herself to tennis.

 

Billie Jean began playing tennis at an early age and quickly became one of the best in the world, following her first Wimbledon doubles title in 1962.Between 1961 and 1979, Billie Jean King won a record 20 Wimbledon titles, including the singles in 1966–8, 1972–3, and 1975. She also won 13 US titles (including four singles), four French titles (one singles), and two Australian titles (one singles).

 

In 1974, Billie Jean King became the first president of the Women’s Tennis Association.  She headed up the first professional women’s tour, the Virginia Slims, in the 1970s. She was elected to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1987 and served as captain of the United States Fed Cup team in the 1990s.

 

In 2006 her accomplishments both on and off the court were recognized when the home of the U. S. Open was renamed the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Centre. In 2007, she co-founded GreenSlam, an organization dedicated to improving the greening of sports. In 2008, King released her first book in more than 20 years.

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Titled Pressure is a Privilege, the book shares a collection of life lessons she has used throughout her life and career. King was named one of the “100 Most Important Americans of the 20th Century” by Life magazine and, in 2009; President Obama awarded her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honour.

 

King has supported various initiatives on behalf of tennis, sports, health, education, women, minorities, gays and lesbians, children, and families. Today she remains an activist for health, fitness, education, and social change. She sits on the board of directors for the WTA, the Elton John AIDS Foundation, and the National AIDS Fund.

 

She is also the national ambassador for AIM, which assists handicapped children, and is a member of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network. King has regularly worked as a sports commentator for numerous networks and cable stations.

 

Also in 2007, she was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. She said she was not shocked by the diagnosis, as her family has a long history of the disease. She is active in the fight to raise awareness about diabetes and was the spokesperson for the Face of Change campaign, a travelling photo exhibit that included personal stories about diabetes.