Sat, Aug 05, 2006 - Page 18 News List

US National Tennis Center to be renamed after Billie Jean King

AP , NEW YORK

Honoring Billie Jean King, the US Tennis Association will rename the USTA National Tennis Center the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center during an opening-night ceremony at the US Open.

"I still am in shock," King said on Thursday. "As a product of the public parks, I am so honored."

King, the only woman to win US singles titles on all four surfaces -- grass, clay, carpet and hard -- won a record 20 Wimbledon titles and four US Open championships.

Her mother, Betty Moffitt, attended the announcement at Arthur Ashe Stadium along with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Mayor David Dinkins.

"I'm very honored to be next to Arthur Ashe and to Louie Armstrong," said King, who joined Ashe as the Wimbledon singles champion in 1975. "That means a lot to me. Arthur and I were born the same year in 1943. We talked about all the things we wanted to happen for our sport but also for human rights."

The name change will take place during opening-night ceremonies on Aug. 28. The USTA board voted unanimously in mid-July to honor King, who helped form the Virginia Slims tour in 1970 and won 39 Grand Slam titles in her 15-year career.

Pete Sampras, a five-time US Open winner, called it a fitting match.

"She's so respected from all walks of life," Sampras said. "It's fitting because of what Billie has done for the sport of tennis and sports in general. She's a legend."

King co-founded the WTA Tour, which now offers a total of US$60 million in prize money at 63 events in 35 countries. She beat Bobby Riggs in the "Battle of the Sexes" in 1973 and co-founded World Team Tennis and the Women's Sports Foundation.

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