Founded by Billie Jean King in 1973 on the principle of equal opportunity, the WTA is the global leader in women’s professional sports. The WTA is one of the world’s most recognizable and high-profile sports leagues, consisting of more than 1650 players representing approximately 85 nations, all competing to earn WTA rankings points and prestigious tournament titles. The WTA Tour comprises of over 50 events and four Grand Slams, spanning six continents and nearly 30 countries and regions with a global audience of over 700 million. The Tour culminates with the Shiseido WTA Finals Shenzhen, honoring the season’s top singles and doubles players based on the final standings of the Porsche Race to Shenzhen leaderboard. Further information on the WTA can be found at wtatennis.com.
Billie Jean King and her group of eight other renegades were revolutionary by 1970s standards. A full two years ahead of the passage of Title IX in the United States, they envisioned a better future for women's tennis.
In September 1970, the birth of women's professional tennis was launched when nine players signed $1 contracts with World Tennis publisher Gladys Heldman to compete in a new women's tour, the Virginia Slims Series. The Original 9, as they were called, included Billie Jean King, Rosie Casals, Nancy Richey, Kerry Melville, Peaches Bartkowicz, Kristy Pigeon, Judy Dalton, Valerie Ziegenfuss and Julie Heldman.
Heldman, along with her friend Joe Cullman from Philip Morris and several others, provided women's professional tennis the opportunity the Original 9 and so many others sought. The inaugural $7,500 Virginia Slims of Houston was established on September 23, 1970 and it was the event that became the groundbreaker for all others.