“It has been a crazy year so far,” said King recently during the 18th WTT Junior Nationals event held at the Barnes Tennis Center in Point Loma. “Everywhere I go, people ask me questions about the events and it is interesting to see how many of them want to know very specific details.”
Beginning with a meeting on June 20, 1973 in the Gloucester Hotel in London — a week before Wimbledon — King was a driving force in the creation of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA). The WTA united all of women’s professional tennis on one tour.
“To this day, I am still amazed at how we got everyone together and came to an agreement on forming the WTA,” noted King. “I was so excited it is probably the key reason I went out a week later and won the ‘triple crown’ at Wimbledon (singles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles).”
A couple of months later, beginning in late August, came equal prize money for men and women for the first time at the US Open. Then, on Sept. 20, 1973, arguably the greatest tennis match in history, at least in terms of hype and promotion, was “The Battle of the Sexes” in the Houston Astrodome where King defeated Bobby Riggs.
“What many people do not know about that event is I was playing in a tournament at the same time in Houston,” she said. “I had to play match in the tournament the day before I played Bobby and the day afterward, too. It was exhausting.”
So when 16 co-ed junior tennis teams with players from 20 states converge at the Barnes Tennis Center for the WTT Junior Nationals, what advice does King — who created the event — tell these teenagers, knowing the odds of any of them making it on the professional tour are slim at best.
“There are three things I encourage. To always keep learning and adjusting. When I was 12-years-old, I could have told you the history of tennis,” said King. “Relationships are everything. Finally its to tell them to be a problem solver and not a problem creator.”
She also tells them to keep their focus in the moment because that is what is most important.
“I do not like to talk about the championships or medals I have won,” said King. “Those events are over. It is today which matters the most and not the past or tomorrow.”
As for the sport of tennis, which King has impacted decade after decade, she continues to voice her desire to make it more like a team sport.
“We want kids to identify with the sport of tennis at age 6 or 7 and not when they are a teenager,” said King. “In order to do that, kids will be more excited if they can sign up for a tennis team, go to team practices and not individual lessons. Wear a team uniform. The emphasis should be on fun, not instruction. We need it to be fun.”
For more information on the WTT Junior Nationals — which will return for the 19th consecutive year to San Diego in 2014 — visit www.wtt.com.