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How Angry Serena Williams Won War of Words Against Her United States Captain Billie Jean King Over Her ‘Fight For Equality’ Advice

Tanmay Roy

How Angry Serena Williams Won War of Words Against Her United States Captain Billie Jean King Over Her 'Fight For Equality' Advice

Idolized by millions, Serena Williams has always fought for what she believes is right. This may include fighting with the chair umpire for a single match point during a game. Or it could be fighting for the bigger purpose of women’s equal rights and empowerment. The latter was once the cause of trouble between her and US legend Billie Jean King. In the end, Serena Williams prevailed.

Serena Williams has been one of the most successful players for the US Team in the Billie Jean King Cup. She won 14 straight singles matches from 1999 to 2020. Her winning run finally came to an end against Anastasija Sevastova, when she lost 6-7 (5-7), 6-3, 5-7 (4-7) to the Latvian in the 2020 edition. In 1999, when Serena Williams contributed to the USA’s title victory at this tournament, she developed a closer bond with Billie Jean King herself.

Billie Jean King was the captain of Team USA 1999. Serena Williams was making her debut and the side had experienced players like her sister Venus Williams, Chanda Rubin, Monica Seles, and Lindsay Davenport. While Williams and King bonded after his tournament, their bond soured many years later. This happened at the 2019 Wimbledon Championships, after Williams lost 2-6, 2-6 to Simona Halep. King, upset at seeing one of the American greats crash out in that manner, has the following suggestion for Serena –

“You never count her out. Every time she wins one more match helps. Quite frankly, if I were Serena, I would give up being a celebrity for a year and a half. Quite frankly, if I were Serena, I would give up being a celebrity for a year and a half. If she wants to win titles, if she wants to beat records, that’s the question. I don’t know what she wants. No more Met Gala’s. Just stop all this insanity because she is trying to be everything. Especially at her age, you have to give up all these peripheral things, if you want to do this. If she is quite happy the way she is then fine,” said Billie Jean King to BBC as reported by Express.UK.

King saw Williams’ form dip in those years when she also lost to Angelique Kerber 3-6, 3-6 in the 2018 Wimbledon Championships. She was urging Williams to focus more on tennis, and if that required her to give up on stardom for a year or fight for women’s rights, so be it. However, this did not go down too well with Williams.

The 23-time Grand Slam winner was asked about it during the press conference after her 2019 Wimbledon loss. Williams gave a fitting reply.

Serena Williams said, “The day I stop fighting for equality and for people that look like you and me will be the day I’m in my grave.”

The comment by King had suddenly gone out of hand and was now perceived as a full-blown ‘war of words’ between Serena Williams and Billie Jean King. What actually happened between the two after that remains a mystery. King, however, gave another reply, pleading for all of these back-and-forth comments to stop.

King wrote on X, “I would never ask anyone to stop fighting for equality. In everything she does, Serena shines a light on what all of us must fight for in order to achieve equality for all.”

Although this matter did not escalate any further than this, it remains a stain on the otherwise cherished relationship between Williams and King over the years.

Billie Jean King reveres Serena Williams

Billie Jean King has always revered Serena Williams for her achievements. Even her comments about Williams leaving stardom and other work to focus on tennis were aimed at Williams winning another Grand Slam. This would’ve taken her Grand Slam tally to 24, equal to Margaret Court’s all-time highest number of Grand Slams won. Alas, it was never to be.

A video on YouTube even shows King yelling out Serena Williams’ name when asked about who is the greatest tennis player of all-time.

After Williams’ retirement in 2022, Billie Jean King gave her a resounding farewell, ornamenting her career and life with praises. King hailed Williams for her courage, her fight for equality, and her attitude toward winning. She, alongside the entire crowd gathered, was in complete awe of her. This was after the little fiasco between them in 2019. Hence, all is well between the two US legends.

Post Edited By:Dhruv Rupani

About the author

Tanmay Roy

Tanmay Roy


Tanmay Roy is a Tennis Journalist at The SportsRush, whose lifelong passion and zeal for the sport landed him this position. A writer with over 1000 articles under him, Tanmay fell in love with tennis in 2005 when Roger Federer defeated Andy Roddick in the Wimbledon final after a stunning three sets. Tanmay followed the likes of the Big Three - Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, and Rafael Nadal from the mid-noughties to now. His interest was stronger than ever after the wonderful 2009 Wimbledon Final which saw Roger Federer win after a see-saw 5-set match. His favorite female tennis player is Serena Williams and Monica Seles. Tanmay's favorite match-up to date is Roger Federer vs Andy Roddick in the 2000s. If possible, the John Isner vs Nicolas Mahut first round match at the 2010 Wimbledon is the only match Tanmay would love to watch Live by going back in time. Of late, he is a huge fan of Jannik Sinner and believes the youngster has the potential to break every record.

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