Salute to Original Nine
Women’s professional tennis celebrates its 43rd birthday today. On this day in 1970, nine women -- including Billie Jean King and Rosie Casals -- signed $1 contracts with Gladys Heldman to compete in a newly created Virginia Slims Series. The group’s goal was simple: to make a living. The top women’s players at the time were making a fraction of the money the men were collecting. The inaugural event was the $7,500 Virginia Slims of Houston. The Original Nine also included Nancy Richey, Kerry Melville, Peaches Bartkowicz, Kristy Pigeon, Judy Dalton, Valerie Ziegenfuss and Julie Heldman. The Virginia Slims Series debuted with 19 tournaments in 1971 with a purse of just over $309,000. In 1973, the Women's Tennis Association was formed. Today, the total WTA purse is more than $100 million.