Google Down the Line!: Celebrating the 'Original Nine' and the birth of the WTA tour

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Celebrating the 'Original Nine' and the birth of the WTA tour

Forty years ago today nine women - Billie Jean King, Rosie Casals, Nancy Richey, Judy Dalton, Kerry Melville Reid, Julie Heldman, Kristy Pigeon, Peaches Bartkowicz and Valerie Ziegenfuss - named the 'Original Nine' signed week long $1 million contracts with World Tennis magazine for the inaugural Virginia Slims Houston Invitation, the first ever women-only tournament.

The following year Virginia Slims upped its sponsorship to $250,000 across 24 tourneys and by 1973 the rival circuits merged to create what we now know as the WTA tour. The women, led by BJK, bucked the establishment and proved that women's tennis was marketable and profitable, and never more so than in today's game where the highest-paid female athlete in the world is a lady baller, Maria Sharapova.

So from this blogger to you I say 'THANK YOU.' Thank you for being visionary and brave. And thank you for making it possible for me and fans around the world to share the experiences and memories of some of the greatest moments in sports history. This blog owes you. Big time.

Here's another tribute to the Original Nine by the one of the beneficiary's of their magnificent efforts and the tour's current video vixen, Andrea Petkovic.


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  1. *cries from gratitude*
    Women who didn't grow up with them have no idea how much they owe Billie Jean and the O9. You don't have to be an athlete to have reaped the benefits.

    Thank you, ladies.
    And thank you, Richie for the post.

  2. Great point, natch. You don't have to be an athlete to have been affected by their efforts to give women visibility and stature in a patriarchal environment, in this case the tennis world.

    It always amazes me when someone or a group can see something that doesn't exist, that's missing in the world and make it come to life. They couldn't have anticipated how the tour has evolved into what it is today, but they sure set the sails in the right direction.


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