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"Yeah," he said, "you dig their graves."
It was she who put the Virginia Slims circuit together two years ago. In 1970 the Pacific Southwest Open in Los Angeles offered a $12,500 first prize to the men, only $1,500 to the women. Eight of the top women pros asked Heldman to organize a replacement tournament for them; on short notice, with cigarette promotion money to help, she put together a $7,500 event in Houston, her headquarters. Out of that grew the pro circuit, which won begrudging sanction from the USLTA between suspensions. King, who had won less than $40,000 in 1969, soon became a tycoon.
Orange and Merion, two tradition-rich grass tournaments, have each lately offered a total of $1,000 in prizes to the women, but it seems unlikely that many top players will bother with such paltry sums anymore. Heldman has organized satellite and qualifying tournaments that hold much more promise. For example, Wendy Overton, a tall, attractive blonde from Florida, started as a qualifier, worked herself up and this year, although never reaching a final or managing to beat King, finished the tour as the eighth-leading money winner with $22,350.
"It takes so much of my time," said Gladys Heldman of the circuit, "that I have no time to swim, play tennis or even drink anymore."
The USLTA announced at Boca Raton that it had given "final authority" over women's tennis to Edy McGoldrick, from Wellesley, Mass., who is lively, personable and well organized enough to manage six children and a 14-room house without servants. The pros like her and Heldman likes her, but few of them believe that the male officials of the USLTA will back her decisions.
Into this mess by Dec. 21 or sooner steps Chris Evert, who is, Australia's Evonne Goolagong notwithstanding, the hottest property still uncommitted. If the USLTA does come up with a circuit. Evert may well join it—along with perhaps Goolagong and Virginia Wade of Great Britain—because she wants to have a shot at winning Wimbledon and Forest Hills. But she refused to announce a decision at Boca Raton despite pressure from the WITF and the press to do so.
"She isn't being fair to tennis to wait until Dec. 21," said King. "I wanted to play at Wimbledon as badly as anybody this year but was willing to forgo it to help tennis. The women don't have it made, not yet. We'd like to have her. Chris is a star. She's young. People want to see her play."
Would King consider playing a USLTA circuit? Ha!
"I'd rather go with the group that has been behind me for two years when times were rough than one that's just trying to jump on the bandwagon," she said.
"The little broads will stick together," said Gladys Heldman.