Singapore - US tennis great Billie Jean King, a high-profile
advocate of gender equality, has urged more players to take up causes off court
and help "make this world a better place".
King, the 74-year-old former world number one, said famous
players have a global platform to speak out on social issues and that she
wished more would take up the challenge.
"Our job is to motivate, to inspire and to be leaders
off the court as well as on the court and to give back to everyone what we
can," she said at a Women's Tennis Association (WTA) finals event in
Players should "really do something special off court
as well, not just on the court and play great tennis", she said, urging
them to ask the question "what can I do to make this world a better
King, who founded the WTA, has used her global fame to speak
out on gender equality both within and outside the sport.
She has also campaigned for equal prize money and rights for
men and women in the sport.
In 1973, she beat men's former number one Bobby Riggs, a
self-proclaimed male chauvinist, in the famous "Battle of the Sexes"
"Other people in the world would give anything to have
the platform we have so we need to be cognisant and aware of that and... try to
make a difference," she said.
King's comments come after Judy Murray, the Scottish tennis
coach and mother of Andy and Jamie Murray, urged Serena Williams and other top
female players to take the lead in pushing for changes in women's tennis.
Speaking on International Women's Day on Thursday, Murray
voiced concern that male players are more vocal in advocating change.
"Serena, now that she's had a baby girl, I'm hoping as
she comes towards the end of her career that she will use her voice to make
things change for women," Murray said.
"It's not all about equal prize money, it's about
grassroots opportunities and helping the female game across the world get
King also said she would like to see men playing
best-of-three-set matches at Grand Slam tournaments, an innovation that would
bring them line with women.
Much of the debate over equal prize money for men and women
has centred on whether female players provide as much entertainment, given
their matches are shorter.
"Personally, I don't want the men playing five sets anymore.
I think it takes too much out of them," she said.
"Like one time the players played in the Australian
Open final. It took six hours," said King, referring to the epic 2012
decider between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.
"They could hardly walk off the court. I guarantee you
that it took a year off their careers."
King, a vocal supporter of the #MeToo movement, also urged
men to take advantage by speaking about sexual abuse.
"The #MeToo campaign has completely helped to allow
people who are abused - not just women, men and women (to speak out). Men,
don't forget that, because lots of times they think it's for women," King
"It's for anybody who's been abused. Now, you're not
She added: "We need sports, we need every industry to
get behind the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements," she added.