Analyzing the key players and political moments in women’s professional tennis since 1968, this book explores the historical lineage of social activism within women’s tennis and the issues, expressions, risks, and effects associated with each cohort of players.

Drawing on original qualitative research, including interviews with former players, the book examines tennis’s position in debates around gender, sexuality, race, and equal pay. It looks at how the actions and choices of the pioneering activist players were simultaneously shaped by, and had a part in shaping, larger social movements committed to challenging the status quo and working towards increased economic equality for women. Taking an intersectional approach, the book assesses the significance of players from Althea Gibson and Martina Navratilova to Venus and Serena Williams, illuminating our understanding of the relationship between sport, social justice, and wider society.  

This is important reading for researchers and students working in sport studies, sociology, women’s studies, and political science, as well as anybody with an interest in social activism and social movements. It is also a fascinating read for the general tennis fan. 

chapter |32 pages


chapter 1|7 pages

The Trailblazers

Setting the stage for social activism in women’s tennis

chapter 2|27 pages

The Founders

The Original 9, “women’s lob” feminism, and the social movement that launched women’s professional tennis, 1968–1975 1

chapter 3|26 pages

The Joiners

The era of Evert and Navratilova, 1974–1990

chapter 4|28 pages

The Sustainers

The corporatization of women’s tennis, 1987–present

chapter 5|41 pages

The Throwbacks

Individual players fighting for broader social justice issues

chapter |9 pages


chapter |2 pages