Original 9 Female Tennis Stars Earned $1
September 24, 2010 8:01 AM   Subscribe

Women's Pro Tennis Turns 40. Women's professional tennis was launched by World Tennis magazine publisher Gladys Heldman 40 years ago on September 23, 1970, with a tournament that had nine entrants and $7,500 in prizes. The original nine were Billy Jean King and Rosemary Casals along with the lesser known Peaches Bartkowicz, Judy Dalton, Julie Heldman, Kerry Melville, Kristy Pigeon, Nancy Richey and Valerie Ziegenfuss. A year later, King became the first female athlete to earn six figures in her sport. In the '80s, Martina Navratilova became the first to earn $1 million. Today the WTA Tour is an $85 million-a-year sport. "We wanted to make sure that any young girl, if she was good enough and if she wanted to, would have the opportunity to make a living playing tennis," King said.
posted by rcade (14 comments total)
I had no idea women's pro tennis only dated back to 1970.
posted by JanetLand at 8:15 AM on September 24, 2010

Since 2007 equal prize money has been allocated for men and women.

posted by notreally at 8:15 AM on September 24, 2010

So when did the grunting start?
posted by Faze at 8:22 AM on September 24, 2010

Not soon enough, as far as I'm concerned. HOT!
posted by rcade at 8:29 AM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Peaches Bartkowicz is a most excellent name.
posted by electroboy at 8:29 AM on September 24, 2010

I had no idea women's pro tennis only dated back to 1970.

I thought the same thing. But on second thought that seems a bit off and looked up tennis on wikipedia and that's not quite the case. The yahoo headline is a bit misleading.

Women's professional tennis began in 1947 with a short-lived series of exhibition matches between Pauline Betz and Sarah Palfrey Cooke, both U.S. National Champions. In 1950–51, Bobby Riggs signed Betz and Gussie Moran to play a pro tour with Jack Kramer and Pancho Segura, (Betz dominated Moran.) Althea Gibson turned pro in 1958 and joined with Karol Fageros ("the Golden Goddess") as the opening act for the Harlem Globetrotters for one season. There was virtually no further women's professional tennis until 1967 when promoter George McCall signed Billie Jean King, Ann Jones, Françoise Durr, and Rosie Casals to join his tour of eight men for two years.[44] The pro women then played as independents as the Open Era began.

In 1970, promoter for the Pacific Southwest Championships in Los Angelse Jack Kramer offered the women only $7,500 in prize money versus the men's total of $50,000. When Kramer refused to match the men's prize money, King and Casals urged a boycott. Gladys Heldman, American publisher of World Tennis magazine, responeded with a separate women's tour under the sponsorship of Virginia Slims cigarettes. In 1971–72 the WT Women's Pro Tour offered nearly ten times the prize money of other pro women's tennis events. The tour alienated the USLTA, which initially would not sanction the tour. Giving Virginia Slims the individual events and the USLTA the tour resolved the conflict. In 1973, the U.S. Open made history by offering equal prize money to men and women. Billie Jean King, the most visible advocate for the women's cause, earned over $100,000 in 1971 and 1972.[45] In the famous "Battle of the Sexes" exhibition match against crafty Bobby Riggs in September 1973, King brought even more media attention to tennis, and to women professionals in all walks of life.

The Women's Tennis Association, formed in 1973, is the principal organizing body of women's professional tennis. It organizes the WTA Tour, the worldwide professional tennis tour. Sponsors included Virginia Slims (1971–78), Avon (1979–82), Virginia Slims again (1983–94), J.P. Morgan Chase (1996–2000), Sanex (2001) Home Depot (2002), and Sony Ericsson (2006–).

From 1984–98, the finals matches of the championship event were best-of-five, uniquely among women's tournaments. In 1999, the finals reverted to best-of-three. The WTA Tour Championships are generally considered to be the women's fifth most prestigious event (after the four Grand Slam tournaments.)

posted by nooneyouknow at 8:31 AM on September 24, 2010

I'm trying to remember if the women's tennis match I saw in Jeeves and Wooster would have been professional. When I was watching I got that impression, perhaps mistakenly. Anyone recall what episode that was in? The TV show was made in the early nineties, but the stories were from well before the seventies and it'd be interesting to see if it that aspect had any basis in reality.

Not soon enough, as far as I'm concerned. HOT!

Oh, come on.
posted by ODiV at 8:39 AM on September 24, 2010

Okay, after seeing the video I get it now.
posted by ODiV at 8:40 AM on September 24, 2010

Okay, now I'm not sure if I do anymore.
posted by ODiV at 8:43 AM on September 24, 2010

The yahoo headline is a bit misleading.

Perhaps. But is a sport truly "professional" if no one who plays can make a living at it? That all changed in 1970.
posted by rcade at 9:13 AM on September 24, 2010

Nancy Richey isn't such a lesser-known player.
posted by yellowcandy at 9:23 AM on September 24, 2010

And here's the link that disappeared when I clicked 'Post Comment': http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nancy_Richey
posted by yellowcandy at 9:30 AM on September 24, 2010

Perhaps. But is a sport truly "professional" if no one who plays can make a living at it? That all changed in 1970.

I don't dispute any of that. But the yahoo headline and article kind of made it seem to me that no woman had played for money at all before the invention of the Women's Tour and that seemed unlikely to me.
posted by nooneyouknow at 11:58 AM on September 24, 2010

Peaches Bartkowicz...Kristy Pigeon

I am suddenly overwhelmed with the desire to create a 70s-set, tennis-themed detective show called Peaches & Pigeon.
posted by aaronetc at 9:16 AM on September 25, 2010

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