NBC

Obama’s Billie Jean King Gaffe

By TennisGrandstand.com Staff

President Obama gaffed at Wednesday’s Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony honoring 16 global citizens, including tennis legend Billie Jean King. In describing King’s illustrious playing career, Obama talked of King’s “12 Grand Slam titles, 101 doubles titles and 67 singles titles.” King’s total number of “major” titles actually stand at 39, including a record 20 at Wimbledon. In defense of Obama, King won 12 singles titles at Grand Slam tournaments, but King was well known if not best known for dominating all events at the majors, including winning “triple crowns” (singles, doubles and mixed doubles titles in the same year) at Wimbledon in 1967 and 1973 and the U.S. Championships in 1967. According to THE BUD COLLINS HISTORY OF TENNIS, King also won an additional 37 singles titles in the “amateur” era of tennis (pre-1968).

In a video after the ceremony shown on the MSNBC television show “Morning Joe,” King joked that Obama got her stats wrong but said with class that it was “adorable.” Joked MSNBC commentator Mike Barnicle of Obama undercutting King’s credentials, “It’s the first time he has come under the numbers.” The video of Obama’s remarks and Billie Jean’s reaction can be seen here –

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King’s bio from THE BUD COLLINS HISTORY OF TENNIS is excerpted here….

Billie Jean King

United States (1943—)

Hall of Fame—1987

The fireman’s daughter, Billie Jean Moffitt King, began blaz­ing through the tennis world in 1960 when she first appeared in the U.S. women’s rankings at No. 4. She was 17. For more than four decades she has continued as a glowing force in the game—the all-time Wimbledon champion, frequently the foremost player, a crusader in building the female professional game (enhanc­ing the game as a whole), remaining relevant to sport today, an inspiration to millions. The Flushing Meadows home of the U.S. Open was named the USTA / Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in 2006.

Born Nov. 22, 1943, in Long Beach, Calif:, Billie Jean, a 5-foot-4 1/2, 130-pound right-hander, was named for her father, Bill Moffitt, a Long Beach fireman and an enthusiastic athlete, though not a tennis player. Her brother, Randy Moffitt, became a pitcher for the San Francisco Giants. She developed on the public courts of Long Beach and first gained international recognition in 1961 by joining 18-year-old Karen Hantze for a surprising triumph in the Wimbledon women’s doubles over Aussies Margaret Smith (Court) and Jan Lehane, 6-3, 6-4. Unseeded, they were the young­est team to win it. That was the first of 20 Wimbledon champi­onships, making King the record winner at the most prestigious tourney, sharing it since 2003 when her friend Martina Navratil­ova caught up. Centre Court was her magic garden from the first time she saw it in 1961.

In 1979, she got the 20th at her 19th Wimbledon, the dou­bles, in the company of Navratilova (over Betty Stove and Wendy Turnbull, 5-7, 6-3, 6-2). She won her last major, the U.S. doubles, in 1980, beside Martina, over Pam Shriver and Stove. Elizabeth Ryan’s 19 Wimbledon titles (between 1914 and 1934) were all in doubles and mixed doubles. King won six sin­gles, 10 doubles, and four mixed between 1961 and 1979, and in 1979 lengthened another Wimbledon record by appearing in her 27th final, the doubles. Ryan was in 24 finals. Of all the men and women to compete at Wimbledon only Navratilova played more matches (279) than King’s 265, of which B.J. was 95-15 in singles, 74-12 in doubles, 55-14 in mixed. She won 12 singles titles at major championships (one Australian, one French, six Wim­bledon and four U.S.)

In her initial singles major final, Wimbledon in 1966, she beat three-time champ Maria Bueno of Brazil, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, She followed up by beating Ann Jones of Britain in 1967,6-3, 6-4 and Judy Tegart (Dalton) of Australia, 9-7, 7-5, in the first “Open” Wimbledon in 1968. In 1967, she took her first U.S. singles over Jones, but the most rousing of the four was 1974, a pyrotechnical performance from two assault-minded dolls, over Evonne Goolagong of Austra­lia, 3-6, 6-3, 7-5. Probably her most memorable Wimbledon match was a loss, the record 46-game 1970 final to Court 14-12, 11-9. Nei­ther let up in attacking, even though both were playing hurt.

Billie Jean’s has been a career of firsts. In 1968, she was the first woman of the Open era to sign a pro contract to tour in a female tournament group, with Rosie Casals, Francoise Durr and Jones, the women’s auxiliary of the NTL (National Tennis League), which also included six men. (A few women before King had turned pro to make head-to-head barnstorming tours, notably Suzanne Lenglen in 1926.)

In 1971, B.J. was the first woman athlete over the 100-grand hurdle, winning $117,000. During that memorable season, she played 31 tournaments in singles, winning 17, and 26 in doubles, winning a record 21. She had a match mark of 112-13 in singles, a record number of wins, and 80-5 in doubles. Overall, it added up to 38 titles on 192 match wins, both records. Imagine how many millions such a campaign would be worth today.

In 1973, Billie Jean engaged in the widely ballyhooed “Battle of the Sexes,” defeating 55-year-old ex-Wimbledon champ Bobby Riggs, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3, a nationally-televised lallapalooza that cap­tured the nation’s fancy and drew a record tennis crowd, 30,472, to Houston’s Astrodome.

In 1974, she became the first woman to coach a profes­sional team containing men when she served as player-coach of the Philadelphia Freedoms of World Team Tennis, a league she and her husband, Larry King, helped establish. As a tribute to her, Elton John composed and recorded Philadelphia Freedom. Traded to the New York Apples, she led that team to WTT titles in 1976-77 as a player.

Ten years after Riggs, BJK was to establish a geriatric mark herself, winning Birmingham (England) over Alycia Moulton, 6-0, 7-5. At 39 years, five months, she was the oldest woman to take a pro singles title.An aggressive, emotional player, Billie Jean specialized in serve-and-volley tactics, aided by quickness and a highly com­petitive nature. She overcame several knee operations to con­tinue as a winner into her 40th year. As a big-match player, she was unsurpassed, excelling in team situations when she repre­sented the U.S. In nine years on the Federation Cup team, she helped the U.S. gain the final each time, and take seven Cups by winning 51 of her 55 singles and doubles. In the Wightman Cup against Britain, she played on only one losing side in 10 years, winning 21 of her 26 singles and doubles.

Outspoken on behalf of women’s rights, in and out of sports—tennis in particular—she was possibly the most influ­ential figure in popularizing professional tennis in the United States. She worked tirelessly to promote the Virginia Slims tour during the early 1970s when the women realized they must sepa­rate from the men to achieve recognition and significant prize money on their own. With the financial backing of Virginia Slims, the organizational acumen of Gladys Heldman and the sales­manship and winning verve of King, the women pros built an extremely profitable circuit.

Only two women, Margaret Smith Court (62) and Navratilova (59) won more majors than King’s 39 in singles, doubles and mixed. In regard to U.S. titles on all surfaces (grass, clay, hard court, indoor), King is second at 31 behind Hazel Hotchkiss Wightman’s 34. But Billie Jean is the only woman to win on all four, equaling Tony Trabert, and Art Larsen, the only men to do so. King and Casals were the only doubles team to win U.S. titles on all four surfaces. She won seven of her major doubles with Casals, her most frequent and successful partner.

Between 1963 and 1980, Billie Jean was in the world’s Top 10 18 times, including five times as No. 1(1966-67-68, 71, 74) and four times as No. 2 (1970, 73, 75, 77). She held her last world ranking, No. 13, at age 40 in 1983.

She greatly aided Owen Davidson of Australia in making his mixed doubles Grand Slam in 1967 with two partners. King and Davidson won the French, Wimbledon and U.S. after he took the Australian with Lesley Turner. She scored three major triples, winning the singles, doubles and mixed at Wimbledon in 1967 and 1973, and at the U.S. in 1967, and won the longest singles set played by a woman (36 games) in a 1963 Wightman Cup win over Christine Truman, 6-4, 19-17.

Billie Jean’s major swan song occurred at 39 in 1983 at Wim­bledon, a semifinal finish (her fourteenth), losing to 18-year-old Andrea Jaeger, 6-1, 6-1. Seven years later she played a cameo role in the Boca Raton, Fla., tourney, winning a doubles match with 13-year-old pro rookie Jennifer Capriati.

In a career encompassing the amateur and Open eras, she won 67 pro and 37 amateur career singles titles, 101 pro doubles. She reached 38 other pro singles finals and had 677-149 singles W-L record as a pro. Her prize money: $1,966,487. Divorce ended her marriage. A founder and ex-president of the WTA, she remains active in World Team Tennis as an officer, formerly commissioner. She returned to her USTA roots in 1995 as captain of the Federation Cup team, having been player-cap­tain in 1965 (a loss) and 1976 (a win). She guided the U.S. team to three Cups (1996, 1999, and 2000). As U.S. women’s Olympic coach, she mentored Lindsay Davenport, Gigi Fernandez and Mary Joe Fernandez to gold medals in 1996, as well as Venus and Serena Williams to golds, and Monica Seles to a bronze in 2000.

MAJOR TITLES (39)—Australian singles, 1968; French singles, 1972; Wimbledon singles, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1972, 1973, 1975; U.S. singles, 1967, 1971, 1972, 1974; French doubles, 1972; Wimbledon doubles, 1961, 1962, 1965, 1967, 1968, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1979; U.S. Doubles, 1964, 1967, 1974, 1977, 1980; Australian mixed, 1968; French mixed, 1967, 1970; Wimbledon mixed, 1967, 1971, 1973, 1974; US. Mixed, 1967, 1971, 1973, 1976. OTHER U.S.TITLES (18)—Indoor singles, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1971, 1974; Clay Court singles, 1971; Hard Court singles, 1966; Indoor dou­bles, 1966, 1968, 1971, 1975, with Casals; 1979, with Navratilova; 1983. with Sharon Walsh; Clay Court doubles, 1960, with Darlene Hard; 1971, with Dalton; Hard Court doubles, 1966 with Casals; Indoor mixed, 1966, 1967, with Paul Sullivan (USA) FED­ERATION CUP–1963-64-65-66-67,76-77-78-79,25-4 singles, 27-0 doubles: WIGHT­MAN CUP—1961-62-63-64-65-66-67, 70, 77-78, 14-2 singles, 7-3 doubles SINGLES RECORD IN THE MAJORS—Australian (17-4), French (21-6), Wimbledon (95-15), U.S. (58-14).

Happy Birthday Mr. Tennis Encyclopedia

Bud Collins, the walking tennis encyclopedia and author of the definitive tennis book THE BUD COLLINS HISTORY OF TENNIS ($35.95, New Chapter Press, www.tennistomes.com) will celebrate his 80th birthday on Wednesday, June 17 – the same day that defending Wimbledon champion Venus Williams will celebrate her 29th birthday. Other events from June 16 and June 17 from the book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.tennishistorybook.com) are excerpted below.

June 16

1974 – Two eighteen-year-olds – Bjorn Borg and Chris Evert – win their first major singles titles with final-round victories at the French Open in Paris. Borg comes back from two-sets-to-love down to defeat Manuel Orantes of Spain 2-6, 6-7, 6-0, 6-1, 6-1 to become the youngest winner of the French Open at the time. Evert encounters much less resistance in defeating her doubles partner Olga Morozova of the Soviet Union 6-1, 6-2 to become the youngest winner in Paris since Christine Truman in 1959. Evert wins an $8,000 first prize, while Borg takes home a $24,000.

1985 – Three weeks preceding his break-through victory at Wimbledon as an unseeded 17-year-old, Boris Becker sends a warning shot to the tennis world and wins his first ATP singles title at the Queen’s Club championships in London, defeating Johan Kriek 6-2, 6-3 in the final. Says Becker following his first victory, “It has been a dream for me when I was 10 to win a Grand Prix final. This week has been fantastic. I played my best tennis and beat a lot of good players.” Says Kriek of Becker and his chances at Wimbledon, “If he plays like that every day at Wimbledon, Becker can win the tournament.”

1975 – U.S. Open Tournament Director Bill Talbert unveils 11 new clay courts at the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills, Queens, N.Y., that will be used in lieu of grass courts for the 1975 US Open. “It will take a complete player to win the Open this year,” says Talbert. Asked how he would react to any player criticism of not playing the U.S. Open on the traditional grass courts, Talbert states, “This is the U.S. Open, which I consider the world’s major tournament and I believe that every player should consider it a privilege to compete in it regardless of what kind of courts we have. They should be willing to put it on the line for this championship.”

2000 – Michael Chang, the 1989 French Open champion whose baseline game never translated well on grass tennis courts, beats 18-year-old Roger Federer, the future five-time Wimbledon champion, 7-5, 6-2 in the quarterfinals of the grass court event in Halle, Germany.

2006 – Roger Federer nearly loses his first grass court tournament in three years, saving four match points in beating Olivier Rochus 6-7 (2), 7-6 (9), 7-6 (5) in the quarterfinals of the Gerry Weber Open in Halle, Germany. The win is Federer’s 39th straight on a grass court surface.

1991 – John McEnroe plays what ultimately is his final Davis Cup singles match, defeating Emilio Sanchez 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 as the United States closes out a 4-1 victory over Spain in the Davis Cup quarterfinal at the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, R.I.

1906 – The Doherty brothers – Reggie and Laurie – pair to defeat the American doubles team of Holcombe Ward and Raymond Little 3-6, 11-9, 9-7, 6-1 to clinch the Davis Cup title for Britain in the Davis Cup Challenge Round played at Wimbledon’s Worple Road courts. The win gives the Brits it fourth straight Davis Cup victory – and its second straight win over the United States in the Challenge Round. It also marks the end of the Davis Cup career of the popular Doherty brothers.

1985 – Pam Shriver needs only 43 minutes to defeat Betsy Nagelsen 6-1, 6-0 to win the singles final of the Edgbaston Cup in Birmingham, England. Nagelsen wins only 21 points in the entire match and says of Shriver, “She played much too well for me and there was little I could do about it.”

June 17

1980 – Venus Ebone Starr Williams, the sensational older Williams sister who, along with younger sister Serena, turn the tennis world on its head by taking their games from the urban streets of Compton, Calif., to Centre Court at Wimbledon, is born in Lynwood, Calif. Williams bursts on the scene as a 17-year-old wunderkind with beaded hair, reaching the final of the U.S. Open as an unseeded player ranked No. 66. Three years later, she is the champion of Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and singles and doubles gold medalist at the Sydney Olympics. In 2002, Williams becomes the first black player – man or woman – to be ranked No. 1 in the world. She and younger sister Serena play the first all sister major final since 1884 at the 2001 U.S. Open. During a stretch from the French Open in 2002 and the Australian Open in 2003, Venus reaches all four major singles finals, but loses all four finals to sister Serena.

1929 – Hall of Fame TV broadcaster, writer and tennis historian Arthur Worth “Bud” Collins is born in Lima, Ohio. Collins is best known for his work with the Boston Globe and with NBC Sports during its “Breakfast at Wimbledon” broadcasts from 1979 through 2007. An astute chronicler and tale teller of the history of the game, he is also known for his tennis encyclopedia – that most recent edition called The Bud Collins History of Tennis – not to mention his colorful wardrobe, featuring his trademark garish and bright-colored trousers.

1898 – In what became one of the most peculiar matches in the history of the U.S. Championships, Juliette Atkinson wins her third U.S. women’s singles title, coming back from a 3-5 final set deficit and saving five match points to defeat Marion Jones in the five-set women’s final 6-3, 5-7, 6-4, 2-6, 7-5 at the Philadelphia Cricket Club. During one of Jones’s match points, she loses the point as the ball in play strikes a stray ball on her side of the court. The New York Times describes the match’s conclusion in the following way; “The final set was the best of all. Five times during this set Miss Jones was only one point from the match and the championship but Miss Atkinson tied her and beat her out each time. In the ninth game of the set, a brilliant rally took place, which was spoiled by the ball in play hitting a ball lying in Miss Jones’s court. At that time Miss Jones needed but one point to win, and her supporters groaned as the chance faded away. The score at the time stood five games to three in favor of Miss Jones, but Miss Atkinson won the next four games and the match by fast playing. Both contestants were heartily congratulated for their plucky work.”

1939 – Don McNeill of Oklahoma City, Okla., upsets fellow American Bobby Riggs winning a stretch of 13 straight games in a 7-5, 6-0, 6-3 victory in the men’s singles final at the French Championships at Roland Garros. Says McNeill, “I never played better in my life.” Says Riggs, “Don just beat me.” The French Championships suffer a six-year hiatus following the 1939 edition of the event due to World War II and are not played again until 1946.

1911 – Hazel Hotchkiss wins her third straight U.S. women’s singles title, defeating Florence Sutton 8-10, 6-1, 9-7 at the Philadelphia Cricket Club in Philadelphia, Pa. The New York Times describes the match as one “replete with sensational features which kept the large crowd of spectators constantly on edge.” Hotchkiss institutes a tactic of lobbing at 7-7 in the third set that helped throw off the upset bid of Sutton, witnessed by approximately 1,000 fans. Hotchkiss also wins the mixed doubles title on this day, pairing with Wallace Johnson to defeat Edna Wildey and Herbert Tilden 6-4, 6-4.

2007 – Maria Sharapova’s semifinal match at the DFS Classic in Birmingham, England with Marion Bartoli is temporarily delayed twice when two spectators need medical assistance. A woman and a child fall down a staircase in the stadium, knocking the woman unconscious and requiring her to be flown via helicopter to a local hospital. Later, in another part of the stadium, a man faints. Sharapova wins the match with Bartoli 7-5, 6-0 and later in the day, loses the championship match to Jelena Jankovic 4-6, 6-3, 7-5.