Tennis legend Billie Jean King 'proud' of her sport for pioneering women's equality ahead of revamped Fed Cup
Tennis icon Billie Jean King has said she is 'proud' of the sport for leading the way in women's equality ahead of the new and improved Fed Cup Finals in April.
Twelve teams consisting of the best players in the world will head to Hungary for a five-day event that holds a pot of prize money totalling £13.9 million.
And the 12-time Grand Slam singles champion, who campaigned for equal prize money and played in the first edition of the Fed Cup, was over the moon with the new set-up.
Speaking to Reuters after the group draw, she said: “It makes me very proud that women’s tennis is showing that it’s still the leader in women’s sports. That means a lot to me, so we must continue to be that.”
“That first Fed Cup featured 16 nations, total. This year 116 started out. That gives you a measure of the huge growth.
“And the new format? It’s huge. The players wanted one less week in the calendar, they got that. And they wanted more money, and the ITF came up with the money.
“It’s equal with Davis Cup which is a very important message because the ITF has really basically governed themselves to have equality, to make sure they are fighting for equality. They are not just talking, they are showing.”
King also pulled no punches in comparing tennis to other sports which had nowhere near the same level of parity for women, pointing the finger at American sports in particular.
“We need all women’s sport thriving," she added. "Baseball is 150 years old, NFL is a 100 years old and NHL is 100 years old this year, and there’s no women’s leagues! That’s another thing on my brain to try and figure out.
“We took our stance 50 years ago. We were going to get suspended. We didn’t know what would happen to us but we fought like crazy for three things: to have a place to compete, to be appreciated for accomplishments, not just looks, and to make a living.
“That was the dream for future generations and they are living it now.”
The Fed Cup kicks off in Budapest on April 14.