WATCH: The USTA launches 'Tennis Champions'

Of all the years in tennis history, none will likely ever match 1943. That was the year when two of the sport’s most remarkable people were born. On July 10, Arthur Ashe, in Richmond, Va.; four months and 12 days later, on November 22, Billie Jean King, in Long Beach, Calif.

The USTA had named its new stadium for Ashe in 1997. This was a fitting tribute to a man who’d won the first US Open in 1968—and in doing so, became the first Black male to ever win a Grand Slam title. Ashe also left a tremendous legacy as a crusader for social justice, committing himself to a wide range of causes.

King, too, was a passionate activist. As a child, she was disturbed at tennis’ various forms of exclusion. Growing into a champion in the 1960s, she became vocal about the need for reform. A vivid moment came during the 1967 U.S. Nationals (now the US Open), when King walked across the grounds of the tournament venue, the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills, alongside USLTA president Robert Kelleher, and made the case for a variety of changes.

With Open tennis kicking off in 1968, King’s vision grew even more expansive. Most notably, in September 1970, she and eight other women—“The Original Nine”—partnered with World Tennis magazine co-founder and publisher Gladys Heldman to form the first women’s pro tour, the Virginia Slims Circuit. Later in that decade, King testified on behalf of Title IX, co-founded World Team Tennis and created the Women’s Sports Foundation.


This year's US Open marks the 15th anniversary of its venue's renaming.

This year's US Open marks the 15th anniversary of its venue's renaming.

As much energy as King gave outside the lines, she remained a zealous competitor. Across three decades, King’s 39 major titles included 13 on American soil—four singles, five doubles, four mixed. She was a master tactician with the racquet, backed most of all by sharp volleys and keen court-management skills.

All in all, an epic career, arguably more so than any athlete in history.

King also prided herself that, for all the tennis she’d played at private clubs and plush venues, she’d primarily formed her game on public parks—a wide range of fast hard courts, all over Southern California, most of all in her native Long Beach.

So it only made sense that on this day in 2006, the USTA announced it was adding her name to its National Tennis Center at Flushing Meadows. The 46.5-acre facility would subsequently be known as USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

“This is a show of faith and responsibility,” said King. “I don’t think I’ll ever comprehend this.”

Asked once about the coincidence that she and Ashe—a fellow product of public parks—had both been born during that war year of 1943, King noted, “Of course. We were forged in battle, in tough, demanding times. We were committed.”

No wonder King chose this title for her forthcoming autobiography: All In.