Sport

Fed Cup gets a makeover with name change in honour of Billie Jean King

Fed Cup gets a makeover with name change in honour of Billie Jean King

Dubai: The annual Fed Cup — the women’s cup of tennis — has been renamed as the Billie Jean King Cup by BNP Paribas.

The announcement was made by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) in a live-stream announcement to global media, late on Thursday.

“From playing the first Fed Cup as a member of the victorious US team in 1963, founding the WTA and becoming its first President, to being the first female athlete awarded the US Presidential Medal of Freedom, Billie Jean King has never stopped breaking new ground,” ITF President David Haggerty said in his opening address.

“Today she adds another ‘first’ to that list. The new name is a fitting tribute to everything she has achieved and will provide a lasting legacy that will inspire future generations of players and fans,” he added.

This is the first that a major global team competition has been named after a woman, ushering in a new era for the historic tennis tournament for women.

A champion on the court and a pioneer off it, Billie Jean King is a global campaigner for equality who has dedicated her life to fighting discrimination in all its forms. The values she represents epitomise the ethos of a tournament that has evolved to become the largest annual international team competition in women’s sport, with 116 nations entering the event in 2020.

The renaming also follows the introduction of a new finals format that will bring the 12 best nations together over one week in Budapest to compete to become world champions.

From 2021, under its new name — the Billie Jean King Cup Finals — will award the biggest annual prize fund in women’s team sports, equivalent to that offered to the men’s Davis Cup Finals that will be held in Madrid.

King’s close personal association with the Fed Cup began at the inaugural tournament and was cemented over the next four decades. She went on to lift the trophy on a total of 10 occasions — more times than any other individual in history — triumphing seven times as a player and four times as a captain, that included once as a player-captain.

King was presented with the Fed Cup Award of Excellence in recognition of her achievements in 2010, before being appointed as the competition’s first Global Ambassador in 2019.

Billie Jean King, who was present at the live announcement, was thrilled with what the sport has given her over the years. “There is nothing quite like the feeling of representing your country and being part of a team, which is why this competition is so special and important to me. It is an honour to have the women’s World Cup of tennis carry my name and a responsibility I will not take lightly,” she said. “Our job is to share this vision with future generations of young girls, because if you can see it, you can be it.”

The name change is expected to provide the opportunity for increased global exposure and investment in women’s tennis. As a historical tennis partner, BNP Paribas has supported women’s tennis since 2006 through the ITF’s flagship women’s global team competition.

With equal prize money and increased opportunity for more nations to compete to become world champions, the competition is today, more than ever, a powerful platform for the ITF to deliver on its ‘Advantage All’ gender equality initiative — a key pillar of its ITF 2024 strategy.