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Billie Jean King on American Junior and College Tennis

To call Billie Jean King a tennis legend is a gross understatement. The woman who has the home of the U.S. Open named after her has been a huge influence on the sport for over 40 years. She's won 39 Grand Slam events, was named as one the "100 Most Important Americans of the 20th Century" by Life Magazine, and was the first female athlete to be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom back in 2009.

Tennis legend Billie Jean King
© Camerawork USA
Along with all her titles and accolades, in the 1970s King also founded the Women's Sports Foundation and the Women's Tennis Association, and co-founded World TeamTennis (WTT). In between it all, the California State University, Los Angeles, graduate has had time to coach and mentor countless junior and college players.

Billie Jean King has never been shy about voicing her opinions on American tennis, but with complaints from King always comes suggested solutions. This was most definitely the case when she sat do to talk about the future of tennis while celebrating the 40th anniversary of Mylan World TeamTennis.


Questions and Answers

Marcia Frost (MF): What do you think about the current state of American tennis?

Billie Jean King (BJK): In the grassroots area, I don't think we're doing very well, and people in tennis are always pumping each other up like everyone is fine. It hasn't been fine, I don't think, since the 80s. We had McEnroe, we had Borg - Martina, Chris, and Zina was in there - and everything was fine.


MF: What has changed?

BJK: When I go to facilities, clubs, country clubs, and public parks, it's too easy to get a court now. It feels like the 60s to me. We've come full circle.

For us to get American champions, which I think is important because they inspire, they motivate - although they are not the real sheroes and heroes, those are local people - you have to have the best athletes, but you also have to have a mass of kids playing, I think.


MF: How do you suggest we go about doing this?

BJK: I still think team is the way to go. I keep telling tennis people, 'Don't look at tennis - look outside our sport at who's doing the best. It's not us.'

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