Fed Cup changes name to honor tennis great Billie Jean King

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FILE - In this file photo dated Thursday, Oct. 30, 2003, U.S. Fed Cup members from left, Martina Navrartilova, Lisa Raymond, Meghann Shaughnessy, Alexandra Stevenson and Fed Cup Captain Billie Jean King, accept a replica of the Betsy Ross Flag at the Advanta Championships, in VIllanova, USA. The Fed Cup is changing its name to honour tennis great Billie Jean King, becoming The Billie Jean King Cup, the first major global team competition to be named after a woman, it is announced Thursday Sept. 17, 2020.(AP Photo/Miles Kennedy, FILE)

The Fed Cup is changing its name to honor tennis great Billie Jean King, the woman whose lifelong battle for equality and social justice laid the foundation for generations that followed.

The Billie Jean King Cup will become the first major global team competition to be named after a woman, the International Tennis Federation said Thursday.

“I’m still in shock,” the 76-year-old King said of the tribute. “It’s really a privilege, and it’s also a responsibility. It’s wild, it’s great, it’s wonderful.”

The rebranding follows earlier changes to bring prize money in line with the men’s Davis Cup and coincides with the 50th anniversary of King’s pioneering effort to launch a women’s pro tennis circuit.

“We feel it’s long overdue,” ITF president David Haggerty said. “All major team competitions, including Davis Cup, are named after men, and we think it’s really fitting that the women’s world cup of tennis would be named after someone as iconic as Billie Jean King, who changed the face of women’s sports.”

King and her peers, known as the “Original 9,” risked their careers to start the Virginia Slims tour. Their work led to the creation of the Women’s Tennis Association in 1973 as the organizing body for women’s professional tennis.

King’s early efforts led to the lucrative prize funds and multimillion-dollar endorsement deals enjoyed today by top players like Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka.

“Today, the players are living our dream, and we’re thrilled for them,” King said in an interview with The Associated Press ahead of the announcement. “Women’s tennis is the leader in women’s sports. We are also leaders in the fight for justice and equality.”