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October 23, 2014

Billie Jean King


THE MODERATOR:テつ Questions for Billie Jean.

Q.テつ What do you feel about the state of the game at the moment, and how much further can it go forward?テつ Keeps getting better and better.
BILLIE JEAN KING:テつ I think you answered it.テつ It's getting better and better.テつ I think especially being in Singapore, just the hospitality and the way things have been organized here, it's fantastic.
Of course, I'll keep learning in the first two or three days.テつ This is my first day here at the site.テつ I've been watching on television.テつ That's how I really get to watch a match.テつ When I'm at an event I end up getting sidetracked talking everyone.
I think it's amazing.テつ When you see this WTA Finals, when you look at the venue, it's been really a three‑week event, Future Stars, Rising Stars, and then you have the stars, I guess, the Final 8 in the singles and doubles.
It's quite amazing.テつ Over $6 million in prize money.テつ I love looking at then and now all the time and comparing.テつ The first year we had a tour we had like $309, 000 total prize money.テつ We didn't have a Championships, although I played 30 tournaments in 1971.
In 1973 we founded the WTA, and then we just didn't have these opportunities they have now.テつ That was our dream for future generations.
When I just went into the stadium Sharapova was practicing.テつ I said, Living the dream.テつ This is what we dreamed about.テつ When there were nine of us in 1970, signed a $one contract.テつ It was the birth of women's professional tennis.
I just think being a part of this history all these years, and as you say it continues to get better and better.テつ The players are just amazing.テつ Even if you take each player In the Final 8, I've seen each one improve and improvise over their careers in how they keep improving.テつ Each one of them.
You look at any of them and they've just gotten better.テつ They've been able to adapt, change.テつ They're standing closer to the baseline for instance, going for more.
That takes courage to change. テつI think it's indicative of what women's tennis is right now, and it's in good shape.テつ If you look at it globally, it's in the best shape it's ever been in.
I just know the players will get better and better.テつ Every generation does get better.テつ They're better athletes.テつ The information available, the nutrition, everything, the way they cross‑train, it's fantastic.
I just think it's wonderful they're living the dream.テつ I would love to be their age today and playing in this.テつ So much fun.テつ Look at the opportunities.テつ Every day you walk on the court‑‑ first of all, waking on a tennis court for me is thrilling for me.テつ I don't care if I'm in a rec, recreational park or Centre Court at Wimbledon or the court here.
It's so exciting.テつ It's like your stage if you're an actor or performer.テつ You walk out on that 36 by 78, and it's like, This is living large.テつ This is what you dream about.テつ There is a switch that goes on that's very different from when you're off the court.テつ It's exciting.

Q.テつ Talking about comparing years, it's interesting that we've got Serena as No. 1 at 33 age.テつ And a lot of the players here are quite experienced.テつ Only one player under 23.テつ Not too recently it was the teenagers dominating.
BILLIE JEAN KING:テつ Yes, I had to live with that. テつCrissy and Martina were the second generation of professionals.テつ We were the transition generation.テつ They were actually the first full generation of being a professional.
They're the ones I had to play against, so I can appreciate what you're saying.テつ But today the power in the game, you cannot at 16, 17, 18, win like you could then.
We didn't have the power.テつ The power today, you physically have to be so much more mature.テつ If you look on the men's tennis, the same has happened.テつ They're even in their mid‑20s even usually when they start winning really big.
Same with the women.

Q.テつ Do you think the era of young prodigies coming through and getting to No. 1 is gone?
BILLIE JEAN KING:テつ Would have to be an exception.テつ The person would've to be exceptional, somebody that matured probably earlier than a lot of rest of the players they're playing against.
I doubt very much the way they hit now.テつ Unless something changes with equipment or as‑‑ you never now how things are going to change.テつ I mean, I read John Wooden's book.テつ The Americans here know who he.テつ He's a great coach.テつ About how all the rules changed throughout years.
You cannot believe how many rule changes they had in basketball.テつ And they have had so many rule changes in other sports.テつ Tennis has had very few actually compared to what other sports have gone through.
I know I probably can't imagine what it could be, although I try to imagine it.

Q.テつ Aside from age, you talk about the power.テつ We had the match where Simona beat Serena.
BILLIE JEAN KING:テつ I saw that.

Q.テつ She's not as big as Maria or Serena.テつ Do you think there is still a place for a smaller athlete?
BILLIE JEAN KING:テつ Totally.テつ They have to be exceptional, like Halep.テつ I really got interested in her about two and a half years ago.テつ I saw her on television in a small tournament someplace.テつ It was on Tennis Channel in the States.
I went, Who is that?テつ She hits the ball so clean, she's smooth, her serve is getting better and better.
I think she's very gifted, and I would consider her an exception.テつ How tall is she?テつ 5'6", 5'5".テつ Yeah.
So I would consider her an exceptional athlete.テつ Hingis was in that same category.テつ I think they're both brilliant.テつ The way they think and develop the points.テつ I think it's great for Romania.
I loved Virginia Ruzici back in the old days when I was playing, so here we have another wonderful player.テつ So I get to see Virginia now, too, because of Halep, so I love it.
She's exceptional.テつ She's fun.テつ She's tough.テつ I think she was down, what, seven break points against Serena and she won every single one of them.テつ That's what you look for.

Q.テつ Do any of the young players ever come and say thank you to you for what you've done for the tour?
BILLIE JEAN KING:テつ Well, we do have a power hour every US Open.

Q.テつ What do you tell young players about the history?
BILLIE JEAN KING:テつ Actually, the WTA staff does such a great job.テつ Ashley is here today and some of the others.テつ They do a great job of getting it organized.テつ All I have to do is come in.テつ They have to learn about the history.テつ They do.
They're usually pretty nervous.テつ Unfortunately by the end of the hour they get pretty loose that we're talking, and they're so sweet.テつ But they do learn and they do ask questions.テつ Most of the questions are what does it really mean to be a pro and what do they have to do.
So I'm just pleased if they love the sport.テつ Their frame of reference is really different.テつ Just imagine if you're born today.テつ You would think all this has been here.テつ You don't know anything else.
So I don't expect them to run up, Oh, Billie, thank you so much.テつ It would be nice, but I know every generation's frame of reference is different.テつ You have to appreciate what they've seen and what they've experienced.
I'm glad they didn't of to go through what we did.テつ I would not want anyone to have to go through what we did.テつ It was very shaky.テつ We didn't know if we were going to make it.テつ We were scared all the time.テつ We were working so hard off the court.
My sanctuary actually was when I was on the court.テつ Nobody could come and ask me could you, would you, can you.テつ So for me to walk on the court was my only time I had some sanctuary, which may or may not sound logical.
But it was for me, because as soon as I would come off the court I was doing meetings and working.テつ It's not like today where the players are worrying about going to the gym.テつ I got meetings to go to or was getting meetings organized.テつ I was calling meetings all the time.テつ I'd go, Players, we need a meeting.テつ They'd go, Oh, no, not again.

Q.テつ Is it important that they know the history so that they don't take what they have right now for granted and keep pushing women's tennis?
BILLIE JEAN KING:テつ In that power hour, near the end of it each time ‑‑because we have two different groups come in.テつ Takes about three hours actually.テつ I keep telling them how would youlike‑‑ now it's your turn to shape the game and the future.
How would you like the sport to look five, ten years from now?テつ Your generation, you're responsible for that now.テつ I'm not.テつ We did our thing.テつ Now it's up to you to shape the future.テつ They just look at me, because most of the time they have never thought about that at all.
So my job I think is to just awaken them a little, let them go a way and think, try to plant seeds of thought that maybe they'll go away.
And then try to figure out also who may be a leader, a future leader in the organizations, like Venus, for instance stepping up and really helping with equal prize money.
Very few players have the energy or the thoughts about really stepping up and being a leader.テつ I try to explain to them everyone is an influencer, that they can affect their town, their village, their country.テつ I try to make them think of what they could do, what's possible.
Just think of all the greater things they could do when they're finished with tennis.テつ You have a platform that very few people in the world ever experience.テつ I would hope that you would want to make a difference in somebody's life, some youngster's life.
Just like you coming up in the sport or anything in your whatever, town, your village, become mayor of your town.
I don't know.テつ Run for president, prime minister, whatever.テつ I don't know.テつ There are all kinds of things you can do in your life.
I would hope they would want to make a difference in some way and not just through their performance only.テつ Although, believe me, performance only takes a lot of work.

Q.テつ On that, now that we've achieved the equal prize money, do you look at the state of the game now thinking there is anything more, further frontiers to be pushed back?
BILLIE JEAN KING:テつ Oh, they're are future frontiers.テつ You talking about women's tennis?

Q.テつ Yeah.
BILLIE JEAN KING:テつ Oh, there will always be frontiers to move forward and conquer.テつ Always.テつ Always some new challenge.
Also, when you have something as wonderful as this, it's not that easy to keep it.テつ You have to work very hard in keeping it.
Like having the WTA Finals for the first time in Singapore, we've got five years here.テつ To make it as good next year as this year, it's going to take a lot of work just to maintain.テつ When you're doing well takes a lot of work, not just getting better.
There are two things there:テつ maintaining and also improving.テつ Look at how many people are involved in these events that have taken place over three weeks.テつ Can you imagine the administrative work?テつ There are umpires and linespeople.テつ I mean, you just start going through.テつ Transportation, security.
I try to explain to the players.テつ How do the towels get to the locker room for you to have to a towel or soap even?
I try to get so basic.テつ Somebody had to take it.テつ How do the umpire's chair get out on court?テつ How did they put the court down?テつ Somebody had to put it down.テつ Somebody had to make the racquet.テつ Somebody had to make the strings in the racquet.
I try to get them to expand and think about all the people that help them in their lives that get them to this point.テつ You don't do it alone.テつ I think especially in tennis, especially singles gets so much attention unfortunately that it makes a player more and more self‑centered.テつ It's always you by yourself.
But there is also responsibility with only two players on a court.テつ You get a lot of the focus.テつ So that can be harder sometimes than calling for substitutions.テつ You can't have substitutions.
So different ways to look at things.

Q.テつ Still about the prize money.
BILLIE JEAN KING:テつ Prize money?

Q.テつ Prize money.
BILLIE JEAN KING:テつ Excellent.

Q.テつ Men's players, there are some men's players still complaining about the equality in the prize money.テつ You ever talk to these guys?テつ Ever happen?
BILLIE JEAN KING:テつ No.テつ It's difficult.テつ You know, sports are a microcosm society, so it teaches you how the world still perceives gender inequality.テつ It's not fun.テつ It's really sad actually.
I find men who have daughters are much more understanding and raise their children ‑‑ if they have a boy and a girl, for instance, they want both of their children to have equal opportunity.
But different cultures also prevent that.テつ Just the way the culture is set up.テつ The way we're brainwashed.テつ So it's difficult.テつ It's very, very difficult, and we've got to keep trying to change things.
What I do with my life, every time I think about somebody, I think about them first.テつ What's their life like?テつ I think men should have more status in being a really great husband and a really great father.
Women have only gotten status if we're a mother or wife.テつ That's where our status is always.テつ Oh, they try to make it into a big deal.テつ I think men would like to spend more time with their families than they let on.
I think if we get the culture to make it a much bigger deal to be a great husband and a great father it would help.テつ If they had more status because of that.テつ Not just being a CEO or that type of thing.
Of course, I have to ask the guys here.テつ They're qualified to answer that better than I am.
But I would hope that since we're in this world together, men and women, that we would champion each other more.テつ We would all win.テつ Nobody would lose really.テつ There would be more for everybody.
That's what I tried to explain to the men when we were starting professional tennis.テつ Do you realize we're the only sport‑‑ at that time in particular, 40 years ago‑‑ where you have both high profile men and women and what we could do if we worked together not only on the court but off the court to make a huge difference.
They weren't interested.テつ They just thought I was out to lunch.テつ They still do.テつ It's sad.テつ I don't agree with them.テつ I just think if we champion each other it's really important.

Q.テつ Interesting you say that.テつ Obviously men, still unfortunately have a certain perception of women and women athletes.テつ It's something they'll always have to fight against.テつ Talking that into account, one of the great things about tennis is players have to fend for themselves.テつ It's unique.テつ No other sport has that.テつ They have coaches.テつ Boxing have seconds.テつ So isn't it odd therefore that women should be allowed coaches on court as if they can't fend for themselves or sort through their own battles which the men can?
BILLIE JEAN KING:テつ I think they should have coaching for the men and the women.テつ And I think they should be able to signal, because they do anyway, from the stands.
I'm trying to think of a world sport.テつ In football, soccer, football, whatever country you're from.テつ Football I call it.テつ I call American football football.テつ So say football, they signal from the sidelines all the time.テつ They can talk any time.
I think that's what we should do.テつ I don't think we should have to wait even between sets.テつ And I think the men should do it.テつ You know why?テつ There's more to talk about.テつ There's more content.
If you look at how many coaches get so much attentionthat ‑‑ I know in the U.S. there is just as much media attention on the coaches.テつ They're fired, they're hired, they made mistake.
I think any time we can get more content, that's good.テつ And if we can get our coaches to have more respect in our sport, think it would really be helpful.
Now, from a U.S. point of view, coaches, the word "coach" means a good a lot.テつ We call our tennis people teaching professionals.テつ Bad.テつ Nobody cares.テつ Kids don't know what it means.テつ Kids love the word "coach."
So I just think coaching is fantastic.テつ I think we should have more of it.テつ I would like them to be able to say it from the stands or signal from the stands.
I don't know if you've ever watched baseball.テつ The third base coach is going like this to the manager.テつ (Baseball hand signals)テつ That means something.テつ Whether to go ahead and hit the ball or take the strike or whatever.テつ Those are the things, those intricacies create more content for the sport.テつ So I think that's important.
What's really hurting is we don't have enough women coaches.テつ If you had a woman running down there to coach, I don't think you would feel quite the same.テつ The guy is showing us because he knows and we don't.テつ Would do you have that same feeling if a woman ran down there to coach or not?

Q. テつWell, Andy Murray.
BILLIE JEAN KING:テつ Yeah, you've got Andy Murray with Mauresmo.テつ That's because his mother coached him so he's comfortable.テつ Women are taught to be more nurturing.テつ Why wouldn't you want a nurturing person to coach you?

Q.テつ Why don't we have more women coaches?
BILLIE JEAN KING:テつ I think it's still they think guys are better and guys can hit with them.テつ The best women need people to hit with so they can kind of do two.
But today they have everything.テつ They have a hitting coach, a coach coach, whatever you want.
I think that's not a good argument anymore.テつ At the top anyway.テつ You don't have as much money at the lower.テつ I always think they could use a friend or a player to help coach them if they don't have the money down at the lower ranking.テつ That's fine.
We used to help each when we didn't have any money back in the old days and we were the best players in the world.テつ We helped each other.
I just think it would be helpful if we had more women coaches.テつ Any time you hurt that human capital, only have half of it, you're missing out on a lot.テつ You just are.
It's like having all women coach es and no men.テつ That wouldn't be right either.テつ The men are better than we are because of androgens.テつ They are.テつ There is no question.テつ Their hormones.テつ Testosterone all that.テつ No question.
So that's not the argument.テつ We've never argued we're better than the guys.テつ We think we are as entertaining if not more entertaining at times.テつ It depends on each match by match, point by point.
I know when we started we didn't say we're better than the guys.テつ Did the media try to get us to say that?テつ Every single day.テつ I said, You guys we're not as good.テつ They'll beat us.
But as far as entertainment value, we can be just as good.テつ And when you think about it, in some ways we have to be better.テつ The court dimensions stay the same.テつ We don't have the androgens that the guys have.
So in some ways we have to be technically better.テつ I think than the guys, they can use more brawn than we can.テつ I think you have to appreciate each situation for what it is.テつ I love watching both men's and women's, junior tennis, recreational.テつ I don't care.テつ I just think it's a crack up.
Have you ever gone to a rec park and just watched the people play in the park?テつ It's hilarious.テつ I love it.

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