NEWPORT, RI, USA - A half-century ago, nine women risked everything for the benefit of future generations - and today, the trailblazing Original 9 now among the legends who have now been nominated for tennis' highest honor.
Announced officially on Monday, the Original 9 headlines the ballot of those eligible for induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in the class of 2021, which also includes five other former players and the late coach Dennis Van der Meer.
Read more: Original 9: A legacy of independence and empowerment
"As we approach the 50th anniversary of the Original 9’s brave actions to create a opportunities for women to compete and have professional career in tennis, and we look at the sport’s massive success in the past 50 years thanks to their courage," ITHF President Stan Smith said, "it is truly my honor to be able to announce the news that the Original 9 have been nominated for the Hall of Fame.”
The Original 9 are the first-ever group to be considered on the ballot in the Contributor Category, as the honor had previously been reserved for individuals. According to the International Tennis Hall of Fame's history, this category "recognizes a true pioneer, visionary leader, or individual/group that has made a transcendent impact on the sport," and is considered once every four years.
Fifty years ago, Americans Peaches Bartkowicz, Rosie Casals, Julie Heldman, Billie Jean King, Kristy Pigeon, Nancy Richey, Valerie Ziegenfuss, and Australians Judy Tegart Dalton and Kerry Melville Reid set the events in motion for the modern-day WTA as they pioneered for women to have a space in professional tennis.
Read more: The Original 9 in pictures
"In a time where defying the odds and having a voice is more important than ever, it’s extremely rewarding to see the impact the Original 9 made 50 years ago can still be felt around the world today," King, inducted herself as an individual in 1987, said.
"There were three things we wanted for future generations. First, that they would have a place to compete. Second, that they would be recognized for their accomplishments, not just their looks. And, finally, that they could make a living playing professional tennis.
"Today’s players are living our dream. I was honored to stand with those eight women 50 years ago and am thrilled to see the Original 9 recognized by the International Tennis Hall of Fame today.”
In addition to the Original 9, former doubles World No.1 and Grand Slam champion Lisa Raymond is among those selected for inclusion in the Player Category for the first time.
Read more: Lisa Raymond included on ballot for 2021 Hall of Fame
With the ballot now set, it will next go before the Official Voting Group, comprised of tennis journalists, historians, and Hall of Famers for a vote later this fall. Additionally, the International Tennis Hall of Fame’s Fan Vote presented by BNP Paribas will run from Oct. 1 – 25, for the Player Category nominees only at vote.tennisfame.com.
The top-three vote getters in the fan vote will receive bonus percentage points on their Official Voting Group result. The candidate with the highest total of fan votes will receive three additional percentage points, while second and third place will receive two and one additional percentage points, respectively.
To be elected into the Hall of Fame, a candidate must receive an affirmative in 75 percent or higher of ballots submitted from the Official Voting Group, or a combined total of 75 percent or higher from their Voting Group result and any bonus percentage points earned in the fan vote.
The Class of 2021 Inductees will be announced in early 2021 with next year's induction ceremony scheduled for July 17, 2021. Since the International Tennis Hall of Fame's inception in 1955, 259 champions and contributors to the sport from 27 different nations have been enshrined.