The WTA is the global leader in women’s professional sport with more than 2,500 players representing nearly 100 nations competing for a record $139 million in prize money. The 2017 WTA competitive season includes 55 events and four Grand Slams in 31 countries. In 2016, the WTA was watched by 408 million fans on television and digital channels around the world. The 2017 WTA competitive season concludes with the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global from October 22-29, 2017 and the WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai, China from October 31 - November 5, 2017.
It was the American Billie Jean King and eight fellow players that paved the way for a better future for women’s tennis in September 1970. They all signed one dollar contracts with Gladys Heldman, the publisher of the “World Tennis” magazine, so that they could take part in the new women’s tour. The “Original 9”, as the group were called, included, along with Billie Jean King, Rosie Casals, Nancy Richey, Kerry Melville, Peaches Bartkovicz, Kristy Pigeon, Judy Dalton, Valerie Ziegenfuss and Julie Heldman. Together with her friend Joe Cullman, who worked for the cigarette giant Philip Morris, Gladys Heldman provided the stage for women’s tennis that the “Original 9” and many other players had longed for. The first tournament, the 7,500 dollar Virginia Slims of Houston, took place on 23 September 1970. It was the tournament that became the groundbreaker.
In 1971, the Virginia Slims Circuit contained 9 tournaments in the USA with a total purse of 309,100 dollars. Billie Jean King was the first female athlete to win a six figure sum in a season. In 1973, she founded the Women’s Tennis Association at a meeting in the Gloucester Hotel, London on the eve of Wimbledon. Later in the year, the US Open offered equal prize money to women and men. In 1974, the WTA signed its first TV contract with CBS.
Further information on the WTA can be found at www.wtatennis.com, facebook.com/WTA and twitter.com/WTA.