Q&A: Tennis Legend Billie Jean King
The owner of World Team Tennis’ Philadelphia Freedoms, which kicks off its home schedule July 10 at Villanova University’s Pavilion, shares her athletic philosophy.
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Perhaps no athlete better signifies the advances made by women over the past four decades than Billie Jean King. She’s won 12 major tennis titles, striking a huge blow for equal rights with her 1974 triumph over Bobby Riggs in the “Battle of the Sexes,” all while working tirelessly on a number of causes. King is also the owner of World Team Tennis’ Philadelphia Freedoms, which kicks off its home schedule July 10 at Villanova University’s Pavilion.
MLT: You still play tennis, and you use World Team Tennis to promote the sport—particularly to young people. What can it do for them?
BJK: If I get a child involved in tennis, it’s something he or she can do for life. You can always find a tennis court; it’s so global. When I’m on vacation, the most important thing is whether I can play tennis. And I’ve played on some pretty bad courts, with grass growing on them and the fences falling down. I don’t care.
MLT: A lot of people look at WTT as an exhibition, since there aren’t any trophies or big prize money. How hard do the players compete?
BJK: It’s not an exhibition. We want the audience to get behind the team. We want them to be biased toward our team. It’s very intense. We pay the players in different ways. There’s a bonus system based on the percentage of games won during the season, so every game is money for them and the team.