The International Tennis Federation (ITF) announced that from now on the Federation Cup, known internationally as Fed Cup, will be renamed the Billie Jean King Cup by BNP Paribas. It is the first time that a major global team competition has been named after a woman, a milestone that ushers in a new era for the iconic tournament and represents a historic moment in sport.
Champion on the track and trailblazer off it, Billie Jean King is an equality activist who has dedicated her life to fighting discrimination in all its forms. The values she represents symbolize the philosophy of a championship that has evolved into the largest annual international team competition in women’s tennis, with 116 nations entered in 2020.
The new name follows the path of other changes such as the new format of the finals, which will bring together the 12 best national teams in Budapest to compete for a week for the title of world champions. Starting in 2021, under its new name, the Billie Jean King Cup Finals will award the highest annual prize in a women’s team sport, matching the prize that finalists receive in its men’s equivalent, the Davis Cup.
ITF President David Haggery of the United States said: “Billie Jean King has not stopped breaking new ground, competed in the first Fed Cup as a member of the American team that won in 1963, founded the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) and she became its first president and was the first female athlete to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom in the United States. Now add another first time to that list. The new name is a tribute to all that it has achieved and will surely inspire future generations ”.
10 times champion
“The Davis Cup is named after a man, so it is totally understandable that the women’s tennis world cup is also named after a woman,” added ITF Vice President Katrina Adams. “There is nothing like the feeling of representing your country and being part of a team, that is why this competition is so important and special to me. It is an honor that the women’s tennis world cup bears my name and it is a responsibility that I will not neglect ”, transmitted the protagonist.
Tennis player Billie Jean King’s close relationship with the Fed Cup began at the inaugural tournament and has been consolidated over the past 40 years. She lifted the champion trophy 10 times, more times than anyone else in history, seven as a player and four as a captain, and including one as a player-captain. King received the Fed Cup Award of Excellence in 2010 in recognition of all her accomplishments, before becoming a global ambassador for the tournament in 2019.
The announcement of the name change comes just a week before the 50th anniversary of the Virginia Slims Circuit in which nine women, including Billie Jean King herself, risked everything to fight for equal rights in the tennis world. The mobilization of the tennis players, known as the “original nine”, was the germ of the creation of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) and made tennis a benchmark in the fight for equal rights in sport and in society .