Huffpost UK Lifestyle

From Billie Jean King To Maria Sharapova, Why We Love Women In Tennis

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BILLIE JEAN KING
2nd July 1964: American tennis player Billie Jean Moffitt (later King) in action during a semi final in the women's singles championship at Wimbledon. (Photo by Dennis Oulds/Central Press/Getty Images) | Dennis Oulds via Getty Images

This week, with Wimbledon and the release of 'Battle Of The Sexes' --- a film documenting the epic 1973 match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs that challenged sexism in sport -- all eyes are firmly on women's tennis.

Since King's victory, the sport continues to grow in popularity. In 2012 alone more than 5.4 million attended women's tennis events, according to the Women's Tennis Association (WTA), with even more tuning in on TV.

But although the sport has come a long way -- since 2007 men and women have split Wimbledon's prize money equally, this year winners will get £1.6 million each -- there is still a long way to go.

Scroll down for our favourite women in tennis

Speaking to HuffPost UK Lifestyle, Tim Woodhouse, Head of Policy at Women's Sport And Fitness Foundation (WSFF) says: "There have been changes but there are still many disparities left in sport."

"We hope that Billie Jean King's story will encourage girls and young women to continue participating in sport despite the challenges they may face."

And face challenges they will. Just last year Gilles Simon reignited the equal pay debate by saying that women tennis players should get paid less than men.

His reasoning? Women play three sets in tennis, while men play five.

World No. 1 Serena Williams was quick to laugh Simon's comments off: "I started playing tennis at two years old. I'm sure he started when he was two years old, as well. I worked just as hard as he did."

When asked why tennis is so much bigger than other women's sports, WSFF's Tim says it's due to the individual nature of the game.

"Female tennis players are amongst the highest profile sportswomen in the world," he says. "And very few other women’s sports have such focused media attention.

"They take part in four Grand Slam championships a year, where the global media spotlight is on them for two weeks at a time."

He adds that tennis offers young women healthy role models.

"Tennis is important as girls grow up with little knowledge of female sporting icons."

Here are some of the fiercest female tennis players on the court (past and present) and why we love them.

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