Pioneer of international women’s tennis Judy Dalton has been inducted into the Australian Tennis Hall of Fame in a ceremony on Rod Laver Arena on Thursday.
The Australian, who reached a career-high singles ranking of No.7 in 1968, was presented with a bronze bust, which would be added to Melbourne Park’s Garden Square.
Dalton, nee Tagert, was one of a group of nine female players led by Billie Jean-King who, fed up with the lack of prizemoney and support they received in comparison to their male counterparts, broke away from the tennis establishment to form their own tour.
They signed symbolic $1 contracts with World Tennis Magazine founder Gladys Heldman to compete on the newly-created Virginia Slims Circuit, which debuted with a tournament in Houston and became known as the Original Nine.
It paved the way for women’s professional tennis, and later the founding of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) in 1973.
The Original Nine’s vision was one in which women and girls could make a living playing competitive sport. That dream is now a reality for hundreds of women playing on the WTA Tour.
Dalton recalls that the money she began earning on the fledgling circuit in the early 1970s helped she and her husband pay off the house that they had just bought in Melbourne.
Dalton was a finalist at the inaugural Houston event in 1970, one of many impressive results to define her tennis resume.
She excelled in the tandem game, winning nine major doubles titles – eight in women’s doubles and one mixed championship – and completing a career doubles Grand Slam. She enjoyed successful partnerships with compatriots Margaret Court, Lesley Turner Bowrey and Tony Roche.
In singles, her greatest achievement came in 1968, where she was a runner-up at Wimbledon and pushed King all the way in an absorbing final. She also reached the semifinals of the Australian Open that year, as well as the semifinals at Wimbledon again in 1971.
She compiled an 18-4 record in Fed Cup – 6-1 in singles and 12-3 in doubles – and was part of the winning Australian teams of 1965 and 1970.
Dalton retired from tennis after the 1977 Australian Open at age 40, and is now the president of Australia’s Federation Cup Foundation.
Previous Australian Tennis Hall of Fame inductees
2012: Ken Fletcher
2011: Owen Davidson
2010: Mark Woodforde, Todd Woodbridge
2009: Wendy Turnbull
2008: Pat Rafter
2007: Mark Edmondson
2006: Daphne Akhurst
2005: Australian Open Centenary
2004: Brian Tobin
2003: Pat Cash
2002: Mervyn Rose, Thelma (Coyne) Long
2001: Mal Anderson, Nancye (Wynne) Bolton
2000: Ken McGregor
1999: Australia inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame
1998: John Newcombe, Tony Roche, Lesley (Turner) Bowrey, Adrian Quist
1997: Fred Stolle, Jack Crawford, Gerald Patterson
1996: Frank Sedgman, John Bromwich, Sir Norman Brookes, Ashley Cooper, Harry Hopman
1995: Lew Hoad, Ken Rosewall
1994: Roy Emerson, Evonne Goolagong Cawley, Neale Fraser
1993: Rod Laver, Margaret Smith (Court)