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Sports Then and Now



Queens of The Court: Billie Jean King – The Heart and Stomach of a King 8

Posted on November 22, 2009 by Marianne Bevis

Women's Professional Tenni is what it is today thanks to Billie Jean King

Women's Professional Tennis is what it is today thanks to Billie Jean King

A tribute to a personal heroine who celebrates her 66th birthday on 22nd November.


A first impression

What was it about one particular woman, wielding her wooden racket in the black and white world of 1960s television, that imprinted itself in this fan’s memory? She came from another country, and she played a game I had barely learned to understand, let alone master.

To me, she looked middle-aged even though still in her early 20s. She was ordinary in appearance but unusual in demeanor.

I knew nothing of her background nor of her achievements in tennis—other than she had just beaten the homely, and British, Ann Jones. But once I heard her name, I never forgot it.

Billie Jean King.

Her story has been simmering in the bloodstream ever since, because her name takes me back to my very first monochrome memories of tennis and of Wimbledon—for it was only Wimbledon that made its way into British living rooms back then.

These were impressionable years for a girl heading towards adolescence. It was the uncomfortable realisation that my mother seemed quite embarrassingly enamoured of the Santanas and Newcombes. It was also the uncomfortable realisation that King was being undermined by that mother’s slights about her appearance, her manner, and her attitudes.

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