Billie Jean King
Professional career: 1959-1983 (25 years)
Total Singles Major Titles: 12
U.S. Open: 4
French Open: 1
Doubles Major Titles: 27 (16 women’s and 11 mixed)
Career Titles: 183
#1 in the World: 1967-68, 1971-72, 1974
Billie Jean Moffitt was going to be great at a sport, it was just a question of which one. She played basketball and softball as a child but once she was introduced to tennis, she found her niche. From Long Beach, California she wasn’t the only athlete in the family, her brother would play 11 years in the Major Leagues and still be the less successful of the two.
Billie Jean became a professional tennis player in 1959 and made waves in Wimbledon when she won the women’s doubles competition as just a teenager. But it would take seven more years for her to finally host her own Major trophy. Her first career Major singles win came in Wimbledon in 1966. That was the same year she married Larry King and became Billie Jean King.
She would go on to win a total of 12 Major singles titles, six at Wimbledon. She would win four singles titles at the US Open and one each at the French and the Australian. She got her Career Grand Slam in 1972 with her win at the French.
King was also a powerful doubles player winning 27 Grand Slams in women’s and mixed doubles. Kings career would span two decades and see many changes in the game over that time. But when she retired she stood behind Margaret Court alone with the most Major Titles.
Billie Jean King played all four of the Majors in only four: 1968, 1969, 1982, 1983.
Margaret Court 10-22 (1-4 in Majors)
Court’s and King’s careers overlapped, and Court was better on all fronts. Court won a singles title as a teenager where King had to wait until her solid twenties to capture her first. King was #1 in the World from 1967-1968, the same years that Margaret Smith retired from the game and married. She was again #1 in the world from 1971-71, when Margaret Court left the game to have her first child. Her last stint as #1 player in the world was during Courts year off to have her second child. In other words, King was only the best in the world if Margaret Court was not playing.
Though in recent years a split has occurred between Court and King, during their playing years they were always very amicable and respectful of each other.
Arguments For and Against:
There are no solid arguments that King is the greatest of all time; she doesn’t match up to Court. Court was a far superior player in all aspects, in Majors, doubles, singles and tournaments. It is interesting how an exhibition game against Bobby Riggs has some how convinced many that King was the greatest player of this generation. But it isn’t even close. But as we look to making our top 10, her 12 Majors and the quality of her rival are going to make her a fierce contender.
Main Photo from Getty.