Never afraid to hit the ball, tennis legend Billie Jean King (1943-) born on this day in Long Beach, California.
Following her first lesson at age 11, she told her mother that she was going to become the best tennis player in the world. Winning Wimbledon six years later, by 1971, she became the first woman athlete to earn $100,000 in a single year.
"Tennis is a perfect combination of violent action taking place in an atmosphere of total tranquility," observed the woman known for her power-hitting and net-charging play.
Because tennis is a sport that women can play as well as men, where a woman could "be a champion and a lady at the same time," King was a catalyst for equality and change.
"That's the trouble with this sport," she sparked in an interview. "We've got to get it off the society page and onto the sports page."
In 1973, she demolished male tennis pro Bobbie Riggs to win $100,000, the largest purse ever paid for a single tennis match. This hyped "Battle of the Sexes" match was played in front of over 30,000 at the Houston Astrodome and watched by 60 million on worldwide TV.
As Frank Deford of Sports Illustrated put it, "Billie Jean King didn't just raise consciousness, which was the feminist mantra then. No, she absolutely changed consciousness."
King won a record 20 Wimbledon titles, established the first major women's sports magazine, and founded the Women's Tennis Association. Still a strong advocate for women's rights, early in 1999 she urged Wimbledon to pay women winners the same as the men (men = $724,000; women = $651,000.)
"Treating women as less valuable than men generates ill-will that is disproportionate to the amount of money you are saving," she said boldly.
Be bold, be passionate, and go for it.