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Rosemary Casals

Fought For Women's Improvements

Casals, drawing on her upbringing, helped lead the crusade to end what she felt was discrimination against players from poorer backgrounds. Major tournaments such as Wimbledon admitted only amateurs, who were independently wealthy, Other players, Casals said, had to take money to keep playing. Pure amateurs were independently wealthy. The "open format" was introduced in 1968, allowing both amateur and professional players to play in the same tournaments. In 1970, Casals and other leading women's players threatened to boycott major tournaments, and after the United States Lawn Tennis Association rebuffed their demands, the women began their own event, the Virginia Slims International.

"Billie Jean King and protege Rosie Casals … [were] names that went together like wine and roses," Bud Collins wrote in his Bud Collins' Tennis Encyclopedia biography, published on the International Tennis Hall of Fame website. "But all the while their influence as pioneering pros ran deeper than the five Wimbledon and two U.S. titles together. Although Rosie, the riveting volleyer, is the smallest modern in the tennis valhalla, she and Billie Jean were giants in launching the long march of the 'Long Way Babies' as the Virginia Slims circuit began to take shape in 1970." The Slims circuit is the forerunner to today's WTA Tour.

"It was becoming increasingly clear that the women players were being left with little more than the crumbs from the way a male-dominated game divided the prize money, as Open tennis, which only began in 1968, began to expand and flourish," wrote John Parsons of the London Daily Telegraph on the WTA Tour's Web site. "Matters came to head only a couple of weeks after Margaret Smith Court had earned barely one third of the amount collected by the men's singles champion for winning the women's singles title at the (1970) U.S. Open—and with it the Grand Slam."

Casals also found herself at odds with Wimbledon officials in 1972 when she wore a purple-patterned white dress designed by "The Leaning Tower of Pizzazz," Briton Ted Tinling. Tournament coordinators insisted Casals leave the court and return wearing all-white. Casals later claimed that the dress she wore became so famous that it won a place in the tennis hall of fame before she herself did.

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Famous Sports StarsTennisRosemary Casals Biography - Rich Game, Poor Background, Fought For Women's Improvements, Slims Tour Takes Shape