IWD: a tribute to the Aussie trailblazers
This International Women's Day, we pay tribute to Aussie duo Judy Dalton and Kerry Reid, integral in the formation of the women's tennis tour.
The story of the women’s tennis tour’s formation is inspiring.
In 1970, a group of nine female players, led by Billie Jean-King and fed up with the lack of prize money and support they received in comparison to their male counterparts, broke away from the tennis establishment to form their own tour.
They signed symbolic $1 contracts with World Tennis Magazine founder Gladys Heldman to compete on the newly-created Virginia Slims Circuit, which debuted with a tournament in Houston.
They became known as the Original Nine – and two of them, Judy Dalton and Kerry Reid, were Australian.
Dalton and Reid, along with the other members of the Original Nine, paved the way for women’s professional tennis, and later the founding of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) in 1973.
Their vision was one in which women and girls could make a living playing competitive sport. That dream is now a reality for hundreds of women playing on the WTA Tour.
Dalton, nee Tagert, was a finalist at the inaugural Houston event in 1970, one of many impressive results to define her tennis resume.
She reached a career-high ranked of No.7 in 1968, was a finalist at Wimbledon that same year, and was inducted into the Australian Tennis Hall of Fame in 2013.
A year later, Reid (nee Melville), joined her in the Australian Tennis Hall of Fame following a career that saw her win 26 titles – including Australian Open 1977 – and rank in the top 10 for 12 consecutive years from 1968 to 1979.
Dalton recalls that the money she began earning on the fledgling women’s circuit in the early 1970s helped she and her husband pay off the house that they had just bought in Melbourne.