Tennis champion and a champion of women’s rights in tennis, former Ballarat resident Judy Dalton has received an Order of Australia in the Australia Day Honours List.
Ms Dalton, who lived in Buninyong and played tennis in Ballarat for many years, won nine Grand Slam doubles titles in her career, and was runner-up in 10 more. She lost a singles final at Wimbledon to US great Billie Jean King in 1968 in a close match, 7-9, 5-7.
She often partnered another great Australian player, Margaret Court, and her last appearance in a grand Slam tournament was in the quarterfinals of the 1977 Australian Open against the eventual champion Evonne Goolagong Cawley.
Ms Dalton says while she is obviously proud of her career, the role she played in bringing equality to women in tennis and then promoting women’s tennis has been something which has brought her great pleasure and satisfaction.
“The tennis results are something that you do at the time, but the other work that you do, well that’s ongoing,” Ms Dalton said.
“It’s nice that it can go on forever. It’s important that someone who gets a lot out of sport puts something back into it. Not just sport – any aspect of life. It’s rarer than it should be.”
As a member of the ‘Original 9’, a group of nine female tennis players who broke away from the tennis establishment to form their own tour, Judy Dalton was one of those directly responsible for changing the way women’s tennis was administered and paid.
In the late 1960s, women tennis players could be paid up to eight times less than their male counterparts. Judy Dalton, along with Billie Jean King, Julie Heldman, Kristy Pigeon, Valerie Ziegenfuss, Jane Bartkowicz, Nancy Richey, Rosemary Casals and Kerry Melville Reid, signed $1 contracts ahead of the first purposely-created Virginia Slims event in Houston in 1970.
They risked suspension and expulsion from the tennis community for their actions.
The United States Lawn Tennis Association, which controlled women’s tennis, did not support the breakaway, and Judy Dalton remembers the feeling of exclusion she and the other rebels felt.
“That was our biggest achievement,” Ms Dalton says.
“We never visualised what it would be today. It’s astonishing. None of us thought it would become what it has.”
Judy Dalton says her involvement in the Fed Cup Foundation is her other great pleasure.
“What we’ve done for country children, and promoting women's’ tennis… the grass roots level needs to be supported. We hope to find champions in the country.”