The Original 9, who laid the groundwork for the WTA Tour, are the first group elected together to the International Tennis Hall of Fame, joining Lleyton Hewitt and Dennis Van der Meer in the class of 2021.
As we look ahead to the summer months, we are moving forward with plans for a terrific celebration in Newport to honour not just one, but two inspiring induction classes of Hall of Fame greats. We are planning these events with the health and safety of all guests as the top priority. In addition to the traditional in-person ceremony and celebration, we are developing a variety of virtual programs so fans around the world can easily and safely participate.” Todd Martin, CEO of the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
On September 23, 1970, led by Billie Jean King, the Original 9 took a bold action that would forever change the course of tennis history.
In a stand against the growing disparity in prize money and playing opportunities for women in professional tennis they signed $1 contracts with World Tennis Magazine publisher Gladys Heldman to compete in a new tournament for women.
Eight of the women entered the draw, Rosie Casals claimed that first title, and the resounding success of the event led to the creation of the Virginia Slims circuit and paved the way for today’s WTA Tour, where women’s tennis flourishes today as the world’s leading global sport for women.
The Original 9 are the first ever group to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, as the honour has previously only been presented to individuals.
The 9 women who comprise the Original 9 are Americans Peaches Bartkowicz, Rosie Casals, Julie Heldman, Billie Jean King, Kristy Pigeon, Nancy Richey, Valerie Ziegenfuss, and Australians Judy Tegart Dalton and Kerry Melville Reid.
“I guess you could say we were women’s tennis suffragettes, in a way,” Pigeon said last year when the group celebrated its 50th anniversary.
Now all 4 Grand Slam tournaments offer equal prize money to women and men.
“There were three things we were really focused on achieving,” King said. “No 1, that any girl born in this world would have a place to play and compete.
“No 2, that women would be appreciated for our accomplishments, not just our looks.
“And No 3, that women would finally be able to make a living playing professional tennis.
“Today, every time a woman gets a check for competing in a Grand Slam, or the WTA Tour, or gets to play in a pro tournament, you can trace it back to that day.”
In results announced on Wednesday, Hewitt was the only one of 5 nominees in the Player Category who was voted in.
He won Grand Slam singles titles at the US Open in 2001 and Wimbledon in 2002, reached No 1 in the ATP rankings, and helped Australia win a pair of Davis Cup championships.
“When you are competing, you’re so focused on training and your results that week or that year, you don’t really look ahead to something like this,” Hewitt said. “But when that is all compiled up and deemed deserving of becoming a Hall of Famer, well, it’s just the ultimate recognition for a player, and I’m so honoured.”
In addition to being elected by the Hall of Fame’s Official Voting Group of media, historians, and Hall of Famers, Hewitt also came in first place in the Hall of Fame’s Fan Voting, a global vote among a ballot of five candidates which took place late in 2020.
The other nominees in that category were Lisa Raymond, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Sergi Bruguera and Jonas Björkman.
Van der Meer, who was a Namibian native and later became a US citizen, will be inducted posthumously, as he passed away in 2019.
He was a legendary coach of top players and a teaching professional who recognised the need for, and subsequently developed, a standardised manner of teaching tennis in order to effectively grow the sport.
Known as a ‘teacher of teachers’, Van der Meer founded both the Van Der Meer Tennis University and the Professional Tennis Registry (PTR), a leading tennis industry organisation that works to educate, certify, and serve tennis teachers and coaches.
The induction ceremony is scheduled for 17 July at Newport, Rhode Island, and will also honour the former players voted in as the Class of 2020, Goran Ivanisevic and Conchita Martinez, because last year’s festivities were called off due to the global coronavirus pandemic.
The ITHOF will offer a variety of in-person and virtual events and experiences throughout the induction weekend, 16–18 July, 2021, to ensure that fans across the globe can safely participate in paying tribute to these legendary players and leaders in the sport.
“As we look ahead to the summer months, we are moving forward with plans for a terrific celebration in Newport to honour not just one, but two inspiring induction classes of Hall of Fame greats,” stated Todd Martin, CEO of the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
“We are planning these events with the health and safety of all guests as the top priority.
“In addition to the traditional in-person ceremony and celebration, we are developing a variety of virtual programs so fans around the world can easily and safely participate.”
Planned virtual celebrations include access to virtual Q&A chats with the inductees, a pre-ceremony red carpet show, behind-the-scenes museum tours with the Hall of Famers, and access to view the ceremony itself, among other programs.
In person and virtual ticket packages are available to purchase now on tennisfame.com/enshrinement .