Chris Evert hails Billie Jean King, Naomi Osaka and Ons Jabeur as pioneers for women in sports

Chris Evert candidly talks about the role models in tennis for the current generation.


Chris Evert hails Billie Jean King, Naomi Osaka and Ons Jabeur as pioneers for women in sports

Chris Evert (Image Credit: The New York Times)

Chris Evert on the occasion of International Women’s Day talked about the woman in sports who has had a significant positive impact in not just tennis but in other aspects as well. The former World No.1 is a role model for many women herself for showing them the way what they can do in life in general and in the sport.

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The American tennis legend in a recent exclusive interview with sports broadcaster EuroSport shared her opinions. She named a few athletes such as Naomi Osaka, Billie Jean King and Ons Jabeur for their courage and how they gave voice to the issues up till now which were either unrecognized by society or taboo.

“I think everybody brings something, all the top players. Female athletes transcend their sports now, they become icons. They use their platform to give very pertinent thoughts and talk about very important issues that relate to society, and they have the courage to speak up,” she answered when she was asked about how female athletes of current generation making impact.

“Look what Naomi Osaka did with mental health. She just opened up a can of worms there and opened the door to have a conversation and to be empathetic and to realise that it is there and it is rampant – not only for athletes but people suffering from anxiety in general,” she continued.

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The 18-time Grand Slam champion also admires Ons Jabeur. She thinks to rise from a place in North Africa and become the first Arab-African woman to reach the final of the Wimbledon is a great achievement.

I mean, I don’t know how you can differentiate between Naomi for what she did for mental health and Jabeur for the influence she has in the Arab world and the African world,” she said comparing Naomi Osaka and Ons Jabeur’s contribution to the society.

Ons has been a role model for women in that part of the world who haven’t had the rights and haven’t had the freedom and the resources that we’ve had over here in America or in other parts of the world. Talk about transcending the sport! She has just influenced a culture and a society that needed a leader like her. So I would say both of those young women currently in today’s game have really made a significant impact on society in the world,” she added further.

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Chris Evert also recognized contribution of Billie Jean King

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Chris Evert and Billie Jean King

The Ice Maiden as Chris Evert was called during her playing days became the first woman to reach the World No.1 spot in the WTA rankings, since the ranking system for women was introduced. She reached the top spot in March 1975 and spent a total of 260 weeks in her career.

She and Martina Navratilova were the first female superstars tennis which were recognized all over the world. However, before both the players there was Billie Jean King which had the greatest impact on changing the situation for women in tennis.

On the occasion of International Women’s Day, Chris Evert gave a hearty tribute to Billie Jean King. She also revealed her admiration for her.

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Billie Jean King and Chris Evert (Image Credit: The Washington Post)

“I have to say Billie Jean King. I mean, if you were to ask me, she just started it all. She was the leader for women’s equal rights and equal opportunities and promoting the sport of tennis for women and promoting women athletes in general. She was basically saying it is okay to be athletic and have muscles and sweat on the court when in those days, in the 60s and 70s, it was frowned upon for a woman to be that way. So she changed not only the sport of tennis but the image of what a woman could be,” she said.

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Billie Jean King was a stern advocate of gender equality and women’s rights. She challenged former American tennis player Bobby Riggs in the “Battle of the Sexes“. She was also instrumental in the formation of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA).

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