2014/09/20

WTA Legends to be Honored at 40th Anniversary Celebration

40 love

LONDON, UK – The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) today announced it will celebrate four decades of growth and achievement with a special gathering of WTA World No.1s at the All England Lawn Tennis Club in London on Sunday, June 30.

 

Former WTA No.1s, WTA Founder Billie Jean King and Margaret Court will headline the once-in-a-lifetime celebration of women’s professional tennis royalty during this historic season. WTA Chairman and CEO Stacey Allaster, King and 19 women who have held the distinction of being ranked WTA World No.1 in singles since computer rankings were introduced in 1975 will be honored at this event emceed by Pam Shriver and Mary Carillo. Among the guests will be some of the sport’s most iconic and loved names, including Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert, Evonne Goolagong Cawley, Martina Hingis, Monica Seles, Justine Henin and current World No.1 Serena Williams.

 

Fans around the world will be able to enjoy the celebration by watching WTA Live: 40 LOVE presented by Xerox, an on-line webcast of the red carpet arrivals starting at 3.00pm, followed by the full gala presentation at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jT_OVo2FC0c.

 

“The WTA’s 40th Anniversary has given us time to reflect on the impact and inspiration women’s professional tennis has had on generations of women,” said WTA Chairman and CEO Stacey Allaster. “This event will provide an amazing opportunity to pay tribute to our Founder Billie Jean King, a pioneer for social change, and the champions who have been responsible for carrying on the vision of equality and empowerment around the world, for the past four decades and onward.”

 

The WTA was founded in 1973, when 63 players, led by Billie Jean King, met behind locked doors in the Gloucester Hotel, London, to form an association seeking equality, recognition and respect. Forty years later, the WTA is the global leader in women’s professional sport, and proudly counts many pioneering accomplishments, including the successful campaign for equal prize money. During this time, prize money and global presence has increased from $1.9 million with events in 10 countries in its inaugural year, to $118 million with events in 33 different countries in 2013.

 

“When we gathered in that hotel room 40 years ago, our vision was that any girl, anywhere in the world, could make a living from tennis if she was good enough,” said Billie Jean King. “Today’s WTA players are living that dream. They’ve taken the baton and run with it, lifting the game to ever greater heights and inspiring a whole new generation of players. I can’t believe how far we’ve come and I couldn’t be happier to join these inspirational women to celebrate 40 great years on Sunday.”

 

“I’m so proud to be among the women attending Sunday’s 40 LOVE celebration,” said World No.1 and 16-time Grand Slam singles champion Serena Williams. “I think tennis empowers women and is one of the best sports for a female to play and be part of. Sharing the stage with so many trailblazers of our sport will be a special experience. There have been some incredible champions and great personalities over the years and I’m honored to be part of the WTA.”

 

To mark its 40th anniversary, the WTA launched a multi-faceted marketing campaign, 40 LOVE, which showcases the pioneers of the game and the current stars who’ve contributed to the ongoing success of women’s professional tennis and the WTA. Print advertisements entitled ‘Forty Years of Breaking Barriers. Thank you for inspiring us’ and 30- and 60-second TV spots ‘Give’ and ‘Time Flies’ feature emotive archive footage of the game’s stars, all of whom have achieved the World No.1 ranking or won multiple Grand Slam titles.

 

Other elements of the season-long campaign include a digital program of online fan polls, Top 40 lists and images, and historic moments of the WTA; a global tour of the famed Billie Jean King Trophy (WTA Championships trophy) to WTA tournaments around the world; a commemorative WTA 40th anniversary book and video; unique content created for the WTA’s new TV magazine show and ePlayer; and a series of celebratory events and promotions throughout the year at WTA events and Grand Slams.

 

The legends and legendary moments of the WTA have been celebrated on wtatennis.com throughout the year and in the lead-up to the 40 LOVE gala, including profiles of all the World No.1s who will be at the event, and a ‘Top 5 Fan Favorite Moments’ vote, where fans write in with their favorite memories. The five most popular choices will be published – along with the many fan submissions – this week.

 

Fans can follow the 40 LOVE campaign throughout the year at wtatennis.com, facebook.com/wta and twitter.com/wta.

WTA WORLD NO.1s

PLAYER WEEKS AT No.1 DATE REACHED No.1
Steffi Graf (GER)

377

August 17, 1987
Martina Navratilova (USA)

332

July 10, 1978
Chris Evert (USA)

260

November 3, 1975
Martina Hingis (SUI)

209

March 31, 1997
Monica Seles (USA)

178

March 11, 1991
Serena Williams (USA)

144*

July 8, 2002
Justine Henin (BEL)

117

October 20, 2003
Lindsay Davenport (USA)

98

October 12, 1998
Caroline Wozniacki (DEN)

67

October 11, 2010
Victoria Azarenka (BLR)

51

January 30, 2012
Amélie Mauresmo (FRA)

39

September 13, 2004
Dinara Safina (RUS)

26

April 20, 2009
Tracy Austin (USA)

21

April 7, 1980
Maria Sharapova (RUS)

21

August 22, 2005
Kim Clijsters (BEL)

20

August 11, 2003
Jelena Jankovic (SRB)

18

August 11, 2008
Jennifer Capriati (USA)

17

October 15, 2001
Ana Ivanovic (SRB)

12

June 9, 2008
Arantxa Sánchez-Vicario (ESP)

12

February 6, 1995
Venus Williams (USA)

11

February 25, 2002
Evonne Goolagong (AUS)

2

April 26, 1976

*including week of July 8, 2013

 

WTA HISTORICAL TIMELINE

1970 – Women’s professional tennis was boosted when nine players signed $1 contracts with World Tennis publications publisher Gladys Heldman to compete in a newly created Virginia Slims Series. The Original 9, as they were called, included King, Rosie Casals, Nancy Richey, Kerry Melville, Peaches Bartkowicz, Kristy Pigeon, Judy Dalton, Valerie Ziegenfuss and Julie Heldman.

 

1971 – The Virginia Slims Series debuted with 19 tournaments, with a total purse of $309,100 on offer in the United States.

 

1973 – King founded the Women’s Tennis Association, uniting all of women’s professional tennis in one tour. The WTA was borne out of a meeting held in a room at the Gloucester Hotel in London the week before Wimbledon; the US Open, for the first time, offered equal prize money to the men and women.

 

1976 – Colgate assumed sponsorship of the Tour events from April to November for four years; at the Palm Springs event, Chris Evert became the first female athlete to cross $1 million in career earnings.

 

1977 – New York’s Madison Square Garden hosted the season-ending Championships for the first time.

 

1980 – By now over 250 women were playing professionally all over the world in a tour consisting of 47 global events, offering a total of $7.2 million in prize money.

 

1984 – Navratilova received a $1-million bonus from the ITF for winning Roland Garros, completing the non-calendar year Grand Slam.

 

1988 – Graf became the second woman in the Open Era to complete a calendar year Grand Slam, and made it a ‘Golden Grand Slam’ by winning the Olympic title in Seoul.

 

1991 – Monica Seles became only the second player to pass the $2-million mark in season earnings and would better men’s leader Stefan Edberg in ’91 and ’92.

 

1997 – Martina Hingis becomes the youngest-ever World No.1, ending Graf’s record reign (for men and women) of 377 total weeks.

 

2001 – WTA prize money increased to $50 million in 63 events, including the first-ever Middle Eastern Tour events in Doha, Qatar, and Dubai, UAE.

 

2002 – The Williams sisters fulfilled their father’s prophecy by becoming the No.1 players in the world, first Venus in February, then Serena in July. Serena won three majors, defeating her older sister in each final.

 

2003 – The “Get In Touch With Your Feminine Side” marketing campaign was launched, the Tour’s most significant branding effort in its history; Serena Williams won the Australian Open to complete the “Serena Slam” while Kim Clijsters became the first female athlete to earn $4 million in season earnings.

 

2005 – Sony Ericsson became the Tour’s worldwide title sponsor in a landmark $88-million, six-year deal, the largest and most comprehensive sponsorship in the history of tennis and of women’s professional sport. As winner of the US Open Series, Clijsters earns double prize money for winning the US Open; her $2.2 million prize cheque was the single biggest payday in women’s sports and in any official tennis event, men’s or women’s.

 

2007 – The Board of Directors approved the Roadmap circuit reform, the most sweeping changes in our history which will include a shorter season, fan-friendly structure and 40 percent increase in Tour prize money (from 2009); the historic achievement of equal prize money at Roland Garros and Wimbledon meant that following a 30-year campaign that began with King, all four majors offered parity for the first time; Justine Henin became the first woman to earn $5 million in a single season.

 

2008 – Celebrating its 35th anniversary, the WTA unveiled the largest advertising campaign in its history, with the “Looking For A Hero?” campaign launched on the eve of Wimbledon. The WTA’s Asia-Pacific headquarters opened in Beijing, China, complementing offices in St Petersburg, FL-USA and London, England. Dubai Duty Free announced an extension of its sponsorship through 2011. A record five women held the No.1 ranking during the season (Henin, Sharapova, Ivanovic, Jankovic, S.Williams), while Doha, Qatar, made a successful debut as host of the season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships.

 

2009 - Stacey Allaster succeeded Larry Scott as chairman and CEO of the WTA Tour, while on court the historic Roadmap circuit reforms became a reality.

 

2010 – Serena Williams collected two more Grand Slam titles but it was Wozniacki who secured the year-end No.1 ranking after picking up six titles.

 

2011 – Off court, the WTA launches its global advertising campaign “Strong is Beautiful”, featuring 40 players and screened in more than 80 markets.

 

2012 – In April 2012, for the first time since the 1980s, all nine members of the trailblazing Original 9 were reunited during the Family Circle Cup in Charleston. Victoria Azarenka and Serena Williams became the first 2 women to surpass the $7 million prize money mark in a single season. WTA inks a four-year deal with Perform to broadcast more than 400 matches annually, the largest deal of its kind.

 

2013 - The WTA announces Singapore will host its crown-jewel season-ending championships from 2014 in a five-year record-breaking deal. Three WTA stars – Li Na, Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams – featured in Forbes Magazine’s Top 100 list of highest paid international athletes, the only three women athletes featured on the list.

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