Melbourne, Australia, 25 February 2021 | Leigh Rogers

The International Tennis Hall of Fame will honour Australians Judy Dalton (nee Tagert) and Kerry Reid (nee Melville) in 2021.

These trailblazing Australian players were part of the Original Nine, who in September 1970 took action about the growing disparity in prize money and playing opportunities between men and women in the sport.

Nine women – which also included Americans Billie Jean King, Peaches Bartkowicz, Rosie Casals, Julie Heldman, Kristy Pigeon, Nancy Richey and Valerie Ziegenfuss – signed $1 contracts in order to compete on their own terms and created their own non-sanctioned events. Risking expulsion from the sport’s governing bodies, it was a brave move in the quest for equality.

The Original Nine took active roles in promoting and growing the Virginia Slims Circuit they formed, ultimately paving the way for today’s thriving WTA Tour.

The International Tennis Hall of Fame announced today they will induct the Original Nine in its contributor category in 2021. They become the first group to receive the honour.

“I think it’s so great that the Hall of Fame agreed to put us in the Hall as a group. It means a lot,” said Reid. “It was a long time ago, 50 years ago that we broke away from the men and started the women’s tour. We had a goal and we just worked really hard. Those early tournaments, we barely had time to practice even. We were doing so much PR, clinics, and everything else to try and promote the tournaments. It took a lot of dedication to do that. But I think we did a good job for women’s tennis and women in general as it turned out.”

A proud Dalton described the honour as “really something special”.

“I think it’s great recognition for what we did. It means a lot,” she said. “One of the main things that we achieved was recognition for women’s tennis, but also for women’s sport as a whole really. I think that for all of us, we worked so hard and when we took such a chance, we didn’t realise how significant it would be 50 years on.”

The Original Nine group will be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame alongside Australia’s Lleyton Hewitt and late South African coach Dennis van der Meer in July.

“I am hugely honoured to be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame,” Hewitt said. “When you are competing, you’re so focused on training and your results that week or that year, you don’t really look ahead to something like this. But when that is all compiled up and deemed deserving of becoming a Hall of Famer, well, it’s just the ultimate recognition for a player, and I’m so honoured.”

> READ: Hewitt confirmed as International Tennis Hall of Fame inductee