An interview with Billie Jean King

BY foxsports • February 6, 2009

The BNP Paribas Showdown for the Billie Jean King Cup (March 2, 7:30 p.m. ET, HBO) at Madison Square Garden will feature some of women's tennis' biggest names. Four of the world's top eight players — No. 1 Serena Williams, No. 3 Jelena Jankovic, No. 6 Venus Williams, and No. 8 Ana Ivanovic — will compete in a one-night, single-elimination tournament.

What: BNP Paribas Showdown for the Billie Jean King Cup

When: March 2, 7:30 p.m. ET

Where: Madison Square Garden


Description: A one-night tournament featuring Serena and Venus Williams, Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic.

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The tourney will conclude "Tennis Night in America," an effort to grow youth participation in the sport of tennis. The USTA will also kick off its search for "America's Best Tennis Town" in conjunction with the MSG event, a nationwide search for the most passionate tennis town in America that will culminate with the announcement of the winner at the 2009 U.S. Open in August.

Billie Jean King won 12 Grand Slam singles titles, 16 women's doubles Slam titles, and 11 more in mixed doubles. The Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York — site of the U.S. Open — is named in her honor. She's also famous for beating Bobby Riggs in the "Battle of the Sexes" in 1973. The tennis legend joined for an interview ahead of the event. It sounds like a great crop of players at this event.

Billie Jean King: ... There's going to be a whole celebration around women's sports. So it's going to be a really great night of celebration and tennis. It's going to be televised by HBO ... (John) McEnroe, (Mary) Carillo and I will be up in the booth. There's a lot of parity right now in women's tennis. Who do you think will be standing out this season and the next couple years?

King: I think you're going to see them at the Showdown. I think Jankovic and Ivanovic are very young. To be No. 1, you have to pay your dues and then you're there and you sustain it. Jankovic needs a weapon. She knows it. She's in much better shape. She had Pat Etcheberry helping her (recently).

Ivanovic has to get more comfortable. She isn't comfortable yet ... But Jankovic needs a weapon, and to be No. 1 you have to have something that stands out. So she needs to work on that, I think. If I were trying to help her, I'd ask her, 'What do you think should be your weapon? You know ... if you had one.' And I think that's what's missing right now.

Serena to me is the one to beat. When Serena is firing on all cylinders, she's the one to beat. I think she's been focused with what God gave her and also what Venus has. I think Venus needs to continue to go to net more because of her wingspan.

I can't think of four any more entertaining players. I think it's a great night. We want to keep tennis in the Garden (after the Pete Sampras-Roger Federer match last year). All the tennis people said, we have to keep tennis in the Garden.

(StarGames President Jerry Solomon) came up with this idea and he came to me and said can we call it your Cup and I'm so embarrassed. ... So we talked, and I said OK, go for it. I won't turn too many shades of red, I hope.

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