King won 39 Grand Slam titles, including 12 singles, 16 women’s doubles, and 11 mixed doubles titles. King won the singles title at the inaugural WTA Tour Championships. King often represented the United States in the Federation Cup and the Wightman Cup. She was a member of the victorious United States team in seven Federation Cups and nine Wightman Cups. For three years, King was the United States’ captain in the Federation Cup.
King was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1987. The Fed Cup Award of Excellence was bestowed on King in 2010. In 1972, King was the joint winner, with John Wooden, of the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year award and was one of the Time Persons of the Year in 1975. King has also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year lifetime achievement award. King was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1990, and in 2006, the USTA National Tennis Center in New York City was renamed the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center
King retired from competitive play in singles at the end of 1983.
She reached the semifinals in her final appearance at Wimbledon, losing to Andrea Jaeger 6–1, 6–1 after beating Kathy Jordan in the quarterfinals, seventh-seeded Wendy Turnbull in the fourth round, and Rosemary Casals, her longtime doubles partner, in the third round. Jaeger claims that she was highly motivated to defeat King because King had defeated Turnbull, a favorite of Jaeger’s, and because King refused a towel from an attendant just before her match with Jaeger, explaining, “I’m not going to sweat in this match.”
King became the oldest WTA player to win a singles tournament when she won Birmingham at 39 years, 7 months and 23 days. The final official singles match of King’s career was a second round 7–6, 4–6, 6–4 loss to Catherine Tanvier at the 1983 Australian Open.
Smallthoughts: Old School Tuesday salutes …Billie Jean King.