Share this news

For the first time, American Masters profiles a sports figure: Elton’s longtime pal, Billie Jean King.

American Masters Billie Jean King premieres nationally Tuesday, September 10, at 8 p.m. on PBS (but check local listings since dates and times may vary).

The broadcast commemorates the 40th anniversaries of the Billie Jean King v. Bobby Riggs “The Battle of the Sexes” match on Sept. 20, 1973, and the founding of the Women’s Tennis Association by King on June 20 of that year. This new documentary traces the incredible life of perhaps the single most important female athlete of the 20th century as her 70th birthday nears.

American Masters looks back to the 12-year-old Long Beach, California, girl who played tennis on public courts, observed disparity and, as she soared athletically, never stopped trying to remedy inequality. During her professional tennis career, King won 39 Grand Slam titles, helped form the Virginia Slims Series (pre-cursor to WTA Tour), founded the Women’s Sports Foundation and co-founded World TeamTennis. Her competitiveness on the circuit was matched by her efforts on behalf of women and the LGBT community, and her commitment to prove there is strength in diversity.

In American Masters, King presents her own story with perspective from fellow tennis stars who played alongside her or were influenced by her, among them Ilana Kloss (King’s partner).

The film also features new interviews with a diverse cast of characters from the tennis star’s unparalleled life: They include Elton, Hillary Clinton, and Gloria Steinem.

Through these interviews and archival footage, the film illustrates the life of a woman whose journey became not just a battle for personal glory but a sociopolitical battle for equality for all.