Who is Billie Jean King?

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Billie Jean King is a former professional tennis player from the United States. She is best known for her accomplishments on and off the tennis court. King won 39 Grand Slam titles, including 12 in singles, and was ranked number one in the world six times. She was a pioneer for gender equality in sports and played a pivotal role in the formation of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA). King also famously defeated Bobby Riggs in the “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match in 1973, which further cemented her status as a trailblazer for women in sports.

Billie Jean King is a well-known professional athlete who used her fame to make a difference in important issues. Born on November 22, 1943, in Long Beach, California, King grew up in a family of athletes. Her father, a firefighter, had tried out for a professional basketball team, while her mother was an athletic swimmer. Even her brother pitched for Major League Baseball teams.

During her childhood, King played basketball and softball, but when she was introduced to tennis, she knew it was the sport for her. She set a goal to become the top tennis player in the world and trained hard to achieve it. King’s dedication paid off, and she started winning youth tournaments across California.

In 1959, Billie Jean King began her professional tennis career and was coached by tennis great Alice Marble. While attending California State University in 1961, she continued playing in tournaments and coaching younger players. King married Larry King, a law student, in 1965.

King’s first significant victory came at the 1961 Wimbledon, where she and Karen Hantze Susman became the youngest team to win the doubles tournament. She didn’t stop there, though.

From 1961 to 1983, King won 39 Open tournaments and achieved 12 singles Grand Slams. She spoke out against gender discrimination in tennis throughout her career. In 1972, after winning the U.S. Open, she highlighted the pay disparity between the women’s and men’s champions. King refused to participate in the tournament until equal pay was implemented, leading the U.S. Open to become the first major tournament to do so in 1973.

In the same year, Billie Jean King co-founded the Women’s Tennis Association and became its first president. She also accepted Bobby Riggs’ challenge to play against him in The Battle of the Sexes, a series of matches in which Riggs aimed to prove male superiority in sports. However, King defeated Riggs in a televised match on September 20, 1973, watched by 90 million viewers.

Despite her successes, King faced discrimination throughout her career. In 1981, she publicly came out as gay, resulting in all organizations that had endorsed her dropping their deals. King and Larry King divorced but remained close friends. She continued to play tennis and became a vocal advocate for women’s rights and LGBTQ+ equality.

Throughout her career, King received numerous awards and acknowledgments. In 1972, Sports Illustrated named her the Sportsperson of the Year, making her the first tennis player and woman to receive this honor. In 1987, she was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. King was also awarded the Medal of Freedom in 2009. Recently, in 2021, she was granted the Muhammad Ali Legacy Award for her leadership and philanthropic efforts.

Billie Jean King continues to serve as an inspiration for tennis players worldwide. She has authored various books, including “All In” and “Pressure Is a Privilege.” Currently, King resides in New York City and Chicago with her partner, Ilana Kloss.

Do you aspire to become a tennis star like Billie Jean King? What goals would you strive for as an athlete?

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  • One notable moment in Billie Jean King’s career was her victory against Bobby Riggs in one of the most-watched tennis matches of all time. Explore this article to learn more about this famous match. Ask a friend or family member if they are familiar with Billie Jean King and The Battle of the Sexes.
  • What is your favorite sport? What do you enjoy playing for recreation? Write a persuasive letter to a friend or family member, encouraging them to participate in one of your favorite sports. Highlight what makes it enjoyable and challenging. Share your written piece with a friend or family member.
  • Who is your favorite professional athlete? What are their significant accomplishments? Do they utilize their fame to support any causes? Gather drawing materials and paper, or utilize one of the Wonderopolis Canva templates, to create an infographic showcasing their life and achievements.


  • https://www.britannica.com/biography/Billie-Jean-King (accessed 05 Apr. 2022)
  • https://www.billiejeanking.com/biography/ (accessed 05 Apr. 2022)
  • https://www.tennisfame.com/hall-of-famers/inductees/billie-jean-king (accessed 05 Apr. 2022)
  • https://kids.kiddle.co/Billie_Jean_King (accessed 05 Apr. 2022)
  • https://learnersdictionary.com/ (accessed 05 Apr. 2022)


1. Who is Billie Jean King?

Billie Jean King is a former professional tennis player from the United States. She was born on November 22, 1943, in California. King is widely regarded as one of the greatest female tennis players of all time.

2. What are some of Billie Jean King’s achievements?

Billie Jean King has numerous achievements in her tennis career. She won 39 Grand Slam titles, including 12 in singles, 16 in women’s doubles, and 11 in mixed doubles. She was also a key figure in fighting for gender equality in tennis and co-founded the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA).

3. How did Billie Jean King contribute to gender equality in tennis?

Billie Jean King played a significant role in advancing gender equality in tennis. In 1973, she famously defeated Bobby Riggs in the “Battle of the Sexes” match, which brought attention to the disparities in prize money and opportunities for women in tennis. This victory helped pave the way for equal pay and more recognition for female athletes.

4. What is Billie Jean King’s impact on the LGBTQ+ community?

Billie Jean King is also known for her advocacy for LGBTQ+ rights. In 1981, she became the first prominent professional athlete to come out as gay. She has since been a vocal supporter and activist for LGBTQ+ rights, using her platform to fight for inclusivity and acceptance in sports and society.

5. Has Billie Jean King received any recognition for her contributions?

Yes, Billie Jean King has received numerous honors and recognition for her contributions to tennis and society. She was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1987 and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States, in 2009.

6. What is Billie Jean King doing now?

Although retired from professional tennis, Billie Jean King remains active in various initiatives. She continues to be an advocate for gender equality and LGBTQ+ rights. She also works as a coach and mentor for young tennis players and is involved in philanthropic efforts through her foundation.

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