WE HAVE COME A LONG WAY: The Inside Story of Women's Tennis by Billie Jean with Cynthia Morris Starr King

WE HAVE COME A LONG WAY: The Inside Story of Women's Tennis

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A well-intentioned trudge through a hundred-plus years of women's tennis. King and tennis writer Starr serve up a straight chronology, starting with the Outerbridge sisters of Staten Island, who laid down their own court in the 1870's and played in long flannel dresses. Among the subsequent personalities: the brilliant but temperamental Suzanne Lenglen, who sucked brandy-soaked sugar cubes when the going got tough; Helen Wills Moody, a sturdy and introverted back-court player; Althea Gibson, the first black woman to win Wimbledon; the graceful Brazilian Maria Bueno, and many more. Until 1968, the important tennis competitions were amateur events. With the inauguration of ""open tennis"" came the first officially sanctioned inequity, with men's purses being much more generous than women's. In 1970, Gladys Heldman, founder of World Tennis magazine, spearheaded the fight for decent money. Jack Kramer had organized a tournament that offered the men 12 times as much in prizes as it offered the women; Heldman, encouraged by King and others, started a competing tournament. The tennis authorities resisted, but, with the sponsorship of Virginia Slims, the women established their own tour. Then came King's landmark trouncing of Bobby Riggs in 1973, followed by the string of recent stars--Evert, Goolagong, Navratilova, Graf. All this is recounted competently and exhaustively, with an earnest attempt to buoy the long march with detail and incident. And when actual matches are described, the narrative comes alive. Unfortunately, however, King devotes only a few pages to herself and--with the exception of a vivid description of the Riggs match--adds little insight into what it feels like to play and win. A valuable reference, then, but decidedly ungripping.

Pub Date: Dec. 12th, 1988
Publisher: McGraw-Hill