(Reuters) – The ‘Original 9’ group, whose efforts ultimately led to the creation of the WTA, headlined the list of nominees up for induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
The ‘Original 9’, who took a stand against a disparity in prize money and playing opportunities for women in professional tennis, were nominated in the Contributor Category, the Newport, Rhode Island-based Hall of Fame said on Monday.
Former players Lleyton Hewitt, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Lisa Raymond, Jonas Bjorkman and Sergi Bruguera were nominated in the Player Category, while late coach Dennis Van der Meer was listed in the Contributor Category.
The ‘Original 9’ includes 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.
This week marks the 50th anniversary of when the ‘Original 9’ group broke the tennis establishment and signed $1 contracts with legendary promoter Gladys Heldman to compete in a ground-breaking women-only tournament.
The tournament proved a success and the tenacity of the group, which took active roles in promoting the circuit, led to the creation of the organising body for women’s tennis.
“In a time where defying the odds and having a voice is more important than ever, it’s extremely rewarding to see the impact the Original 9 made 50 years ago can still be felt around the world today,” King said in the Hall of Fame’s news release.
Australian Hewitt, the youngest player (20) ever to claim the world number one ranking, won the U.S. Open and Wimbledon titles during his career.
Former world number one Ferrero won his only Grand Slam at the 2003 French Open and in 2000 was a hero of Spain’s first Davis Cup championship-winning team.
Spanish clay court great Bruguera won back-to-back titles at Roland-Garros in 1993 and 1994, the first against twice defending champion Jim Courier after he came back from being down 2-0 in the fifth set.
American Lisa Raymond won 11 Grand Slam titles in doubles and mixed doubles while Swede Bjorkman won nine major doubles titles.
Van der Meer developed a universal manner of teaching tennis to grow the sport and is the founder of Professional Tennis Registry, which offers education and career assistance.
The Class of 2021 will be announced in early 2021 with an induction ceremony slated to take place on July 17.
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Ken Ferris)