Billie Jean King speaks to the media before a first round 2019 Fed Cup match between the USA and Australia at U.S. Cellular Center on Feb. 9, 2019 in Asheville, N.C.
Fifty years after Billie Jean King first took a stand for pay equality in women’s tennis, the sport’s women’s team tournament is taking on her name.
The Fed Cup will be renamed the Billie Jean King Cup, the International Tennis Federation announced Thursday, honoring one of the sport’s all-time great players and most influential advocates.
“We feel it’s long overdue,” ITF president David Haggerty told the Associated Press. “All major team competitions, including Davis Cup, are named after men, and we think it’s really fitting that the women’s world cup of tennis would be named after someone as iconic as Billie Jean King, who changed the face of women’s sports.”
King, 76, told the New York Times she hopes this will be seen as an advancement for sports, not just for women’s sports.
“You don’t go up to John McEnroe and say thanks for what you did for men’s tennis. You say thanks for what you did for tennis,” she said, adding: “I want this Billie Jean King Cup to represent everyone, not just women.”
Founded in 1963 as the women’s equivalent of the much older Davis Cup, which began in 1900, the tournament was named the Federation Cup in honor of the International Tennis Federation. Its name was shortened to Fed Cup in 1995.
King was on the winning U.S. team for that inaugural 1963 tournament, and she went on to win it seven times in her career, plus three more times as team captain.
Of course, King also did so much more in her historic career, including winning 12 Grand Slam singles titles, and 27 more in women’s and mixed doubles. She’s also known for her years of advocacy for equality in sports.
In 1970, she was part of the “Original Nine” that boycotted a tournament in protest of unequal pay for women. That led to the first women’s pro tour, and in 1973 King founded the Women’s Tennis Association. One year later she founded the Women’s Sports Foundation and co-founded World TeamTennis. Her efforts are widely credited with helping push the Grand Slam tournaments to now offer equal prize money for men and women, although many tournaments still offer higher prize money to men.
After the 2020 Fed Cup was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 2021 Billie Jean King Cup Finals are set for April 13-18 in Budapest, Hungary.