Three-times Grand Slam champion, Naomi Osaka has become the highest-paid female athlete in the world. Clinching her second US Open title, she bagged around three million dollars as the prize money. In the men’s section, Dominic Thiem emerged as the champion and he too bagged the same amount of money.
Equal pay for men and women may seem normal for tennis fans, but it was not the case a few decades back. There was open discrimination between the two in terms of prize money. The ratio went as high as 12:1 in favor of the men.
In the 1970s, tennis legend Billie Jean King along with eight other tennis players put their demands on the table. It was the demand for equal pay for men and women. Although it was turned down initially, the revolt of nine women was successful in getting their demands fulfilled.
Academy Award winner Natalie Portman narrates the journey of the Original 9. She mentions the struggle they had to face 50 years back. Portman recalls the fruitful efforts of the glorious warriors who spoke up for equal pay.
“Osaka’s earnings today can be traced back 50 years to a group of women who had the courage to demand more for themselves,” she narrates.
At the 1968 Wimbledon Championship, Rod Laver won £2,000. Contrastingly, Billie Jean King was awarded a meager £750 for her title victory. Billie and eight other female professionals, along with the publisher of World Tennis magazine, Gladys Heldman, boycotted the Pacific Southwest Championship.
A separate tour named the Virginia Slims was organized for the 9 iron-fisted women. Their banishment from the US Lawn Tennis Association couldn’t stop their passion and demolish their objective.
Eventually, the number grew from 9 to 40. A little while later, they formed the WTA, and a segregated WTA Tour became a reality. At last, the struggle of the brave women bore fruit.
The revolution started the movement for equal pay in tennis. Because of their revolution, half a century later, we see young talents like Osaka bagging equal prize money in the tournaments.
The reigning US Open 2020 champion, Naomi Osaka, even engaged in conversation with Billie Jean King following her triumph in Flushing Meadows.