Fifty years ago, the US Open became the first sporting event in history to offer the same prize money to male and female competitors. Today, on National Equal Pay Day, the Grand Slam starts its nine-month promotional campaign and celebration of equality.
The great Billie Jean King became the pioneer for equal prize money when she won the women’s singles title at the 1972 US Open and unequivocally demanded that the following year’s US Open pay men’s and women’s players equally. King’s ultimatum set the tone for a momentous year ahead, which first saw the formation of the Women’s Tennis Association.
At the 1973 US Open, women’s and men’s tennis players were each competing for total purses of $100,000, including a $25,000 payout to both the men’s and women’s singles champion. After the milestone event, King defeated Bobby Riggs in the ‘Battle of the Sexes’ at Houston’s iconic Astrodome, a match that helped to propel the women’s movement in both sports and in society, and still remains the most-watched tennis encounter ever.
To support this historic anniversary, Brazilian artist Camila Pinheiro has created bold and contemporary artwork featuring an iconic image of Billie Jean King. The artwork captures the energy and excitement of the US Open and will be showcased in various promotional materials, including US Open broadcasts, merchandise, advertising, and throughout the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
The USTA is planning numerous activities to support this anniversary. A multi-dimensional history of equal prize money, and the impact that equal prize money has had on sports will be launched online with additional promotion across the association’s social media channels. This will be accompanied by stories written by notable tennis journalists and historic video footage leading up to the 2023 US Open. Additionally, a series of essays titled “What Equality Means to Me” will feature notable women from different fields of expertise, beginning with an essay by Billie Jean King in April.
The US Open takes place annually at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, Queens. This year’s tournament starts with US Open Fan Week on Tuesday, August 22, with the main draw of the tournament running from Monday August 28 through Sunday September 10.