Pioneer Billie Jean King championed equality in women’s tennis

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Story highlights

Billie Jean King is a 12-time grand slam singles champion

American is a famed fighter for equality and women's rights

She was the driving force behind the women's WTA Tour

Founded the same year she beat Bobby Riggs in famous "Battle of the Sexes"

CNN  — 

When Serena Williams, winner of this year’s women’s singles title at the U.S. Open, picked up her check for $2.6 million – buck for buck the same as the men’s champion – she might well have reflected that, if not for Billie Jean King’s pioneering efforts, those riches might not exist.

Supreme champion on the court, battler for equality off it, King took on the male-dominated tennis establishment and won.

She was the driving force behind the formation of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) in 1973, the same year she famously beat former men’s grand slam champion Bobby Riggs in the “Battle of the Sexes” match in Houston.

Read: How women cracked tennis’ glass ceiling

“Everybody should thank her and shake her hand,” King’s fellow tennis icon Chris Evert told CNN’s Open Court. “She put money in our pockets and provided a living for hundreds and hundreds of female athletes.

“Tennis is the frontrunner in all sports in equality, so she deserves all of the credit.”