NEW YORK, NY, USA - Weeks before she became a Grand Slam champion at the Australian Open, Sofia Kenin sat down with WTA Legend Billie Jean King to thank the women’s tennis trailblazer for her contributions to the sport.
The pair met in New York City for the filming of the Katie Couric-produced ‘Thank You Notes’, a web series that brings together an icon with a rising star within the same industry to pay homage and spark conversation. Previous episodes have featured Olympian Gracie Gold in conversation with Michelle Kwan, actress and activist Jameela Jamil alongside #MeToo founder Tarana Burke, and journalist Noor Tagouri with Couric herself.
During the recording, Kenin read out a thank you note of her own to King, “on behalf of women’s tennis players everywhere.”
"Thank you for showing all women just how valuable we are and that our equality is worth fighting for,” she read.
It was the 21-year-old's first time properly meeting the tennis legend and WTA founder, and she said that the experience of sitting down for a chat with King - under the glare of lights and cameras - was daunting.
“I was pretty nervous, and I was a little overwhelmed, like you can probably tell [in the video], but I just tried to somehow do well and read the letter,” Kenin told wtatennis.com afterward.
“But she’s such an inspiration to me. It meant a lot to me when I was reading it to her, because I felt everything and I hope she also felt it.”
Excited to share the “Thank You Notes” project I worked on with @katiecouric. I was thrilled to receive a thank you note from @SofiaKenin, who has become the youngest American to make a @WTA Top 10 debut since Serena in 1999. Check the link in my bio to see our whole video! pic.twitter.com/R8UHaRlPdd— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) March 4, 2020
Afterward, the conversation turned to King’s longtime social activism for gender equality, echoing the theme of 2020 International Women’s Day, “Each For Equal”. King recalled the founding of the first women’s tennis tour - led by a group of trailblazing players who would become known as the Original 9.
“The three things that we thought of is that, any girl born in the world, if she’s good enough, would have a place to compete,” King said. “Number two, to be appreciated for our accomplishments, not our looks. And then the third one was to be able to make a living.”
The pair signed off looking ahead to the future, with King telling Kenin, “I hope you’re No.1 in the world.”
“I don’t wanna take things for granted, but I’m excited for what the future will hold for me,” Kenin replied.
Filmed during the 2019 off-season, neither woman had any idea that Kenin would go on to claim her first Grand Slam trophy just weeks later at the Australian Open. But even back then, with a bit of inspiration from a legend, Kenin was already eager to achieve more.