Billie Jean King once again showcased her ability to lead with resilience by hosting the 22nd BJK Power Hour group mentoring session via video conference for the first time.
The tennis legend and social pioneer has hosted the past 21 editions of this activity at the BJK National Tennis Center during the US Open. The theme of the 2020 BJK Power Hour was 'Champions Adjust', focusing on the skills required to adapt to the current world situation when people tend to seek out inspirational leaders such as Billie Jean during such challenging times.
As the founder of the WTA and the historian of the WTA's mentor program, King led the session that included participants from four continents, and was accompanied by her life partner and South African WTA Legend Ilana Kloss as well as WTA Legend, entrepreneur, broadcaster and proud parent of three Pam Shriver, who moderated the event and whose expertise fueled the crowd to interact at a higher level than ever. Players on the call included former Wimbledon runner-up Sabine Lisicki; Top 100 stars Anna Blinkova and Anastasia Potapova; rising teenagers Leylah and Bianca Fernandez, Kaja Juvan, Emma Raducanu, Zoe and Isabella Kruger, Reese Brantmeier and Francesca Jones; top doubles pros Hayley Carter, Kaitlyn Christian, Sharon Fichman and Giuliana Olmos; as well as Irina Khromacheva, Paula Ormaechea, Ankita Raina, Bibiane Schoofs, Natalia Vikhlyantseva and Katarina Zavatska.
King, together with her fellow WTA legends and WTA leadership, emphasized the importance of resilience to help the players focus on their own 'why?' and 'how?' to stay engaged and inspired during the current suspension of professional tennis. Speaking casually yet profoundly to the participants, King encouraged them to share opinions with each other and urged them to continue aspiring to meet their goals, while also drawing a comparison about this period of uncertainty with the time when the Original 9 famously signed $1 contracts with World Tennis Magazine publisher Gladys Heldman to found professional women's tennis.
In September, the WTA will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the courageous risks Heldman and the Original 9 took for what they believed was right for the professional sport - as King always says, "We've come a long way, baby!" She encouraged the players on the call to stay positive, be brave and embrace opportunities during this time.
The lively group of mentors and player participants candidly discussed an array of topics including characteristics of a Grand Slam champion, the essential skills of a WTA player, the evolution of the game, on-court coaching, the WTA and the ATP merging forces, and female leadership. King's statements that "pressure is a privilege" and "the importance of being a problem solver" stood out as the most relevant both for these challenging times and the larger future vision of professional tennis, and she emphasized the important foundation her generation had laid for any girl, if she's good enough, to be appreciated for her accomplishments and make a living.
King, Kloss, Shriver and WTA president Micky Lawler also discussed various aspects of the business and culture of the WTA with the appreciative players. "Talking and listening to a legend like Billie Jean King has inspired and motivated us - and 'problem solving' stood out to us," said the Fernandez sisters afterwards, while Ormaechea declared: "What an incredible person - I could have listened for hours." Brantmeier described the call as "a wonderful and inspirational conversation", while Lisicki summed it up with the words: "There is no limit to learn things, and it's so worthy of hearing them from Billie Jean King."
Read more: Andreescu's letter to the Original 9