For more on the WTA's Original 9, read our write-ups on each of tennis' trailblazing women.
Kerry Melville Reid, winner of 22 singles titles, didn’t get her start in tennis until she was 10. It hardly mattered. Hitting with her father in Melbourne, Australia, Reid instantly became obsessed with a sport that gave her a platform beyond winning and losing.
Just over a decade later, she was crowned the doubles champion at the 1968 Australian Championships with Karen Krantzcke and, later that year, teamed with Margaret Court to lead her country to the Billie Jean King Cup (formerly Fed Cup). By 1970, she finished runner-up to Court in her first major singles final at the Australian Open, in what would be Reid’s last appearance at her home major for three years.
At the time, gender prize money equality had been brewing as an issue in the locker rooms. Reid “hadn’t thought about it too much” until playing at Jack Kramer’s Los Angeles tournament, which saw male competitors make more than eight times as much as their female peers. Reid, following in the footsteps of her veteran countrywoman Judy Dalton, would become one of two Australians to join forces with seven Americans in taking a stand.
“There was Billie Jean (King) and Rosie (Casals), very articulate and real passionate about the sport. And Judy was very experienced, very lively sort of a person. And you know some of us were quiet including [me],” Reid told Tennis Channel.
“We all kind of matched and once we had that, we really had something to go for. We worked really hard.”
Come September 23, 1970, the Original 9 took their courageous leap of faith at the inaugural Virginia Slims Invitational in Houston by breaking away from their associations. The work that followed these nine women required incredible commitment, desire and execution, as well as accepting consequences. Reid and Dalton were banned from playing in Australia as a result of becoming “contract pros,” but for Reid, the message she and her fellow pioneers were sending outweighed any associated costs.
“The difference it made for women was [giving] them an opportunity in the workplace. People, employers realized women can do a great job and deserve to get a better deal,” said Reid. “As the years go by, I get more and more proud of it. We really did stick our necks out. I’ve got two daughters and they just think it’s incredible that we did that. So that makes me happy.”
After defeating Chris Evert to reach the final of the 1972 US Open, Reid was finally permitted to return at Melbourne’s Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club the following January. She would advance to the semifinals, and four years later, in the first of two Australian Open events staged in 1977, celebrated her greatest singles triumph.
For the girl who spent every recess at school hitting against a wall, one could say everything worked out just fine—and then some.