Billie Jean King

Name: Billie Jean King

Born: 22 November 1943

Birthplace: Long Beach CA, United States of America

Grand Slam record:

Australian Open:
1 singles (1968)
1 mixed doubles (1968)

Roland Garros:
1 singles (1972)
1 doubles (1972)
2 mixed doubles (1967, 1970)

4 singles (1967, 1971, 1972, 1974)
5 doubles (1964, 1967, 1974, 1978, 1980)
4 mixed doubles (1967, 1971, 1973, 1976)

US Open:
4 singles (1967, 1971, 1972, 1974)
5 doubles (1964, 1967, 1974, 1978, 1980)
4 mixed doubles (1967, 1971, 1973, 1976)

Billie Jean King Cup record (As Federation Cup/Fed Cup)
Ties played: 36 (1963-1979) 
Singles W/L: 26-3 
Doubles W/L: 26-1 
Overall W/L: 52-4

7 titles as a player (1963, 1966, 1967, 1976*, 1977, 1978, 1979)  
4 titles as captain (1976*, 1996, 1999, 2000)  
*as player-captain 

Career accolades

  • 1967: Named Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year (also 1973)
  • 1970: Member of Original 9 that formed the Virginia Slims tour
  • 1971: First female athlete to win $100,000 prize money in a single season
  • 1972: First woman, first tennis player named Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year
  • 1972: Wins singles, doubles and mixed doubles titles at Wimbledon
  • 1973: Founded Women’s Tennis Association
  • 1973: Defeated Bobby Riggs in Battle of the Sexes
  • 1974: Founded Women’s Sports Foundation
  • 1974: Co-founded World TeamTennis
  • 1976: Named Time Magazine Woman of the Year
  • 1979: Wins record 20th Wimbledon title (now shared with Martina Navratilova)
  • 1980: Wins 39th and last Grand Slam title at US Open
  • 1987: Inducted into International Tennis Hall of Fame
  • 1990: Named in Life Magazine 100 Most Important Americans of the 20th Century
  • 2003: Received ITF’s Philippe Chatrier Award
  • 2006: Dedication of USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center
  • 2009: Awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama
  • 2019: Named Fed Cup Global Ambassador
  • 2020: Fed Cup is renamed in her honour: the Billie Jean King Cup

Billie Jean Moffitt was born into an athletic family in California. Father Bill was a firefighter and talented basketball player, while mother Betty was an accomplished swimmer. Her younger brother Randy was a Major League Baseball pitcher from 1972 to 1983, and while Billie Jean showed promise in basketball and softball as a youngster, it was her first encounter with tennis that charted the course of her life. 

At the age of 11, she was invited to play tennis by her friend Susan Williams and instantly took to the sport. She bought her first racquet with money earned working odd jobs and began to play on the public courts in Long Beach, telling her mother she was going to be the No.1 player in the world one day. 

As a player, Moffitt was renowned for her speed around the court, her formidable net-rushing style, her fierce backhand and her competitive edge. She made her Grand Slam debut at the US Championships in 1959 at the age of 15 and won her first major title in the Ladies’ Doubles at Wimbledon with Karen Hantze two years later.  

In time, the name Billie Jean King – she married law student Larry King in 1965 – would become synonymous with The Championships. She claimed her first singles major win at Wimbledon in 1966, won all three titles – singles, doubles and mixed doubles – in 1972, and sealed a record-breaking 20th Wimbledon title in 1979 in the doubles alongside Martina Navratilova, who went on to match King’s title count at SW19 in 2003. 

King’s playing career saw her win 39 Grand Slam titles and complete career slams in both singles and mixed doubles. The only major title she missed out on was the Australian Open doubles crown, though she twice reached the final in 1965 and 1969. All told, King amassed 129 singles titles during her playing days – 62 as an amateur and 67 on the WTA Tour – and was crowned world No.1 between 1966-68, 1971-72 and again in 1974. 

King was part of USA’s team at the inaugural Federation Cup in 1963 – the competition that would later be known as Fed Cup, and today named in her honour. The 16-team event took place over a week at the Queen’s Club, London, and USA defeated Australia in the final as King – then Billie Jean Moffitt, and USA’s No.2 player behind Darlene Hard – came back from a set down to beat Lesley Turner before partnering Hard to defeat Margaret Smith and Turner in the decisive doubles in three sets. 

It was the beginning of an association with the competition that endures to this day. King went on to play in 36 ties for USA including nine finals, winning seven – only Chris Evert, with eight, has more titles to her name. Between 1963 and 1979 she amassed a 52-4 win-loss record, including an unsurpassed 12-2 match record in finals and ending with a 30-match unbeaten streak. She and Rosie Casals went undefeated in doubles together (10-0), and share the USA record for most doubles wins (26-1 each). As a captain, King won four of the seven finals she contested, including the 1976 title as player-captain. Only Petr Pala, who has guided Czech Republic to six titles, has won more. 

But King’s playing career tells only half the story of a life dedicated to championing equal rights, both in sport and beyond. An instrumental member of the Original 9 that broke away from the establishment to form the Virginia Slims Tour, which went on to become the Women’s Tennis Association, King’s threat of a boycott of the US Open led to the introduction of equal prize money in 1973, the first of the Grand Slam tournaments to do so. That same year, she played in the infamous Battle of the Sexes at the Houston Astrodome, defeating 1939 Wimbledon champion Bobby Riggs 6-4 6-3 6-3 – a symbolic, seminal moment in sports history. 

King’s career was intertwined with an activist streak that continues to this day. She co-founded the co-ed World TeamTennis circuit, and started the Women’s Sports Foundation, dedicated to creating leaders by providing girls access to sport. As one of the first female athletes to disclose her homosexuality, she became a champion of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) rights. And in 2014, she founded the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative to help achieve diverse, inclusive leadership in the workforce. 

In 2019, King was announced as Global Ambassador for Fed Cup. On 17 September 2020, the competition was renamed in her honour: the Billie Jean King Cup. 

60 years of Billie Jean King Cup