The Extraordinary Heritage of Women's Tennis

The Extraordinary Heritage of Women's Tennis

With the count-down on to International Women's Day in March, we've taken the opportunity to delve back into the illustrious and rather amazing history of women's tennis.... because it is a sport like no other when it comes to female empowerment.

This is a big topic with much to say (some of it problematic) and we'll be getting into more detail over the coming weeks, but to whet your appetite here is a brief potted history.

  • 1884 Wimbledon becomes the first major sporting tournament in the world to legally permit women to play providing a stage for female sporting prowess and further lighting the touch paper for women’s equality
  • 1887 – 1893 Lottie Dodd puts female athleticism on the map by winning the Wimbledon championship five times
  • 1900 Tennis is the first sport that women are allowed to compete in at the Paris Olympics, spearheading international interest in the sport for women
  • 1917 Lucy Diggs Slow wins the American Tennis Association Championship and becomes the first female African-American National Champion in sport
  • 1913 Emerging Parisienne designer Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel opens up her first boutique which sells a line of women’s tennis dresses, the most popular sport of the day among French women. Coco famously said “luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it is not luxury”

  • 1916 Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel’s tennis dress appears in American Vogue (pictured) to critical acclaim creating an inflection point in her career that saw her go on to become the most powerful and commercially successful female designer in the history of fashion
  • 1921 the world’s first female sporting icon bursts into the media spotlight at Wimbledon when French player Suzanne Lenglen caused a sartorial sensation by famously abandoning tennis’s traditional longer skirt in favour of a short pleated skirt, sleeveless silk blowse and jumper. Ohh lala! Suzanne Lenglen was then famously dresses for each of her matches by esteemed Parisienne couturier Jean Patou, paving the way for today’s athlete apparel sponsorships.

  • 1973 90 million people worldwide watched Billie Jean King defeat Bobby Riggs in the Battle of the Sexes tennis match, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3.
  • 1990s onwards – Female tennis players are typically the highest paid athletes in the world out of any sport including Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka and Emma Raducanu.  
  • 2017 Serena Williams wins the Australian Open gaining her a whopping 23 Grand Slam trophies, more than any other player in the history of open tennis, male or female (Nadal & Djocovik have 22 a-piece). GO SERENA!
  • Present day there is finally pay parity in the sport when it comes to tournament wins. Shameful that it took 100 years, but a step in the right direction for women's sport.
International Women's Day falls on 8th March 2023. Stay tuned for more incredible female tennis stories from EXEAT over the coming month.