Trailblazers and long-time New Yorkers will be honored before this year’s US Open.
USTA Eastern and the Junior Tennis Foundation (JTF) will induct longtime partners Billie Jean King and Ilana Kloss into its Tennis Hall of Fame to honor their illustrious tennis careers and long legacy of advocacy for gender equality in sports and beyond.
The induction ceremony is tentatively scheduled to be held the week prior to the US Open in New York, pandemic permitting. They join previously announced inductees Dr. Dale Caldwell and Dr. Emily Moore as members of the 2021 Hall of Fame class.
“It is not possible to overstate Billie Jean and Ilana’s contributions toward creating a more equitable world,” said USTA Eastern Executive Director and CEO Jenny Schnitzer. “As leaders and advocates, they have fundamentally altered the tennis landscape. But what they have accomplished together extends far beyond a tennis court.
“Their collaborative efforts through the Women’s Sports Foundation and the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative over the years have opened so many doors for girls and women in sports and in the workplace. Their impact is felt on a global scale. We are thrilled to formally recognize them for their remarkable achievements and lifetime of service.”
39-time Grand Slam Champion King led the “Original 9” tennis players to form what would eventually become the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) in reaction to unequal pay and opportunities compared to their male counterparts. For over 40 years she has been partners with fellow former player Kloss, who captured two major doubles titles and was ranked as high as No. 1 in the world in doubles and No. 19 in singles.
Together, King and Kloss have dedicated much of their lives to championing gender equality and LGBTQ rights. As a co-founder of World TeamTennis (WTT) over 40 years ago, King helped develop the first-ever professional tennis league in which male and female players contributed equally to achieve a team result. Kloss carried on the WTT’s cornerstone mission, serving as the CEO and Commissioner of the revolutionary league—which was headquartered for many years in New York City—from 2001 until 2018.
In 2014, King and Kloss launched the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative to address equality and inclusion issues in the workplace. The pair is also actively involved with the Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF), an organization King founded in 1974 to help girls and women all over the world achieve their full potential in sports. Both King and Kloss currently sit on the WSF board, and Kloss previously served as the governing body’s chair. King and Kloss are also part of the ownership groups of the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Los Angeles Sparks and Angel City FC, and they are founding board members of the Elton John AIDS Foundation. The couple currently resides in New York City.
With their induction, King and Kloss join fellow tennis trailblazers and notables Arthur Ashe, Mary Carillo, Althea Gibson, “Original 9” member Julie Heldman, John McEnroe, Patrick McEnroe, Renee Richards, Bob Ryland, Dick Savitt and former USTA President Katrina Adams in the Eastern Tennis Hall of Fame.
Proceeds from the induction ceremony will benefit the JTF, which provides grants and other financial assistance to hundreds of worthy tennis programs and organizations that focus on underserved and at-risk youth and people with disabilities. Since its incorporation in 1982, JTF has provided more than $2 million for programs and scholarships in the Eastern Section.
Photo credit: WTA Tour