While Billie Jean King was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1987, she makes a resurgence as she enters the inductee class of 2021 as a member of the first group to be inducted by the ITHoF.

On September 23, 1970, the Original 9 took a bold action that would forever change the course of tennis history. In a stand against the growing disparity in prize money and playing opportunities for women in professional tennis, they signed $1 contracts with World Tennis Magazine publisher Gladys Heldman to compete in a new tournament for women. 

Billie Jean King at a press conference. Photo by Chuck Burton/AP Images

Eight of the women entered the draw, Rosie Casals claimed that first title and the resounding success of the event led to the creation of the Virginia Slims circuit and paved the way for today’s WTA Tour, where women’s tennis flourishes today as the world’s leading global sport for women.

The Original 9 are the first ever group to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, as the honor has previously only been presented to individuals. The nine women who comprise the Original 9 are Americans Peaches Bartkowicz, Rosie Casals, Julie Heldman, Billie Jean King, Kristy Pigeon, Nancy Richey, Valerie Ziegenfuss, and Australians Judy Tegart Dalton and Kerry Melville Reid.

Billie Jean King attended California State University, Los Angeles from 1961 to 1964. As a talented amateur tennis player, she was denied access to a college scholarship simply because she was female. Her first success came in 1961 while still at college when she won the Wimbledon doubles championship with partner Karen Hantze on her first attempt, becoming the youngest team to win and bringing her great acclaim.

Dennis Van der Meer, a Namibian native who later became a U.S. citizen, was a legendary coach of top players and a teaching professional who recognized the need for, and subsequently developed, a standardized manner of teaching tennis in order to effectively grow the sport. Known as a “teacher of teachers”, Van der Meer founded both the Van Der Meer Tennis University and the Professional Tennis Registry (PTR), a leading tennis industry organization that works to educate, certify, and serve tennis teachers and coaches. Van der Meer will be inducted posthumously, as he passed away in 2019.

According to former ITA Executive Director, David Benjamin, Van der Meer was a great supporter of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association and made presentations at the inaugural ITA Coaches Convention and hosted several workshops at previous conventions.

“The Original 9 were true trailblazers in tennis history. It took a lot of courage to do what they did, and we have today’s incredible WTA Tour to thank for it, as well as opportunities for women in so many other sports. It’s also a pleasure to celebrate Dennis Van der Meer, who was a tremendous coach, teacher, and real visionary for the future of the sport,” International Tennis Hall of Fame President Stan Smith said.

The Induction Ceremony for the Class of 2021 is scheduled to be held at the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, R.I. on Saturday, July 17, 2021. For more information on the 2021 International Hall of Fame Inductees, visit tennisfame.com

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