Nine women, one bold proposal, and a $1 bill. That was all it took for women’s tennis to begin a 40-year journey of self-empowerment that has created a generation of sporting millionaires.
Back in 1971, the total prize money on offer for the first women’s tour was $309,000 spread over 19 tournaments.
In 2012, including the purse from the four grand slams, it cracked $100 million for the first time — this year it is projected to hit $107 million.
“I forecast to the athletes in my first player meeting that we would get to $100 million in 2014. To be able to reach that milestone two years ahead of that is testament to the commercial success of women’s tennis,” says Stacey Allaster, who has been chief executive of the WTA since 2009.
When Serena Williams, the modern queen of the WTA Tour, won the U.S. Open last September her $2 million prize haul matched the entire career earnings of Billie Jean King — one of the pioneering nine and a dedicated fighter in the cause of women’s equality.