A series of five portraits featuring women who redefined our sport.

Their influence reached far beyond center court. Empowering generations of female athletes to define their own voice and combat gender stereotypes.

Curated by : Caitlin Thompson, Publisher of Racquet, an award winning print magazine and media company

Any conversation about women’s tennis begins with the working-class trailblazer from Long Beach, California, Billie Jean King. Sure, formidable female champions pre-dated her—Helen Wills Moody won more slam titles, Maureen Connoly Brinker grabbed a career Grand Slam in the early ‘50s and Althea Gibson broke the color barrier later that decade by winning Wimbledon—but BJK, as she has become known, was the one who put women’s tennis on the map. By the early ‘70s, female professional tennis players were tired of petitioning the male-dominated tennis establishment for equal prize money, better treatment and access to promotion so King, along with eight other trailblazers and the publishing magnate Gladys Heldman, created the Virginia Slims Tour. This group became known as the Original 9 and their staggering creation now stands nearly 50 years later as the Women’s Tennis Association. 

King, ever restless to prompt the stuffy world of tennis to prioritize inclusion and equality, also spent the 1970s electrifying the world by handily besting male pro player (and self-proclaimed ‘male chauvinist pig’) Bobby Riggs in a best-of-five competition at the Houston Astrodome that became known as the Battle of the Sexes, creating a dual gender league called World Team Tennis that influenced international competitions from the Olympics to the Hopman Cup where two genders compete on the same playing field, as well as testifying in front of the US Congress to codify Title IX, a law guaranteeing equal access to sport for women in all schools. The impact of the latter has transformed society for generations of women, both inside academic institutions and out, and is the model for how an athlete and activist changes the world.

The women trailblazers in tennis series is the latest feature of the gender equity program. 

Tennis Canada and National Bank have partnered to create meaningful actions and change for gender equity in tennis.

The aim of the program is to create opportunities for women and girls in tennis, encouraging them to continue playing and enticing even more to pick up a racquet, become life-long participants, coaches, officials, and professionals, and reap the benefits of an active lifestyle and personal growth through sport.

For more information, go to https://www.tenniscanada.com/girls/