Judy Dalton's action struck in coin to inspire at 2021 Australian Open

INSPIRE: Australian Open ball girls with a commemorative coin for this year's tournament, featuring Judy Dalton. Picture: courtesy ANZ
INSPIRE: Australian Open ball girls with a commemorative coin for this year's tournament, featuring Judy Dalton. Picture: courtesy ANZ

STRUCK into a silver coin a little bigger than a 20-cent piece, Judy Dalton hopes the day she signed a professional tennis contract for $1 will continue to inspire women in sport.

The long-time Ballarat, Victoria, resident and former Wimbledon columnist for The Courier features on a commemorative coin with fellow Australian Kerry Melville to mark 50 years since the Original 9 made their big play for gender equality in tennis.

This breakaway group, led by American Billie-Jean King, launched their own women's tour with each woman signing a $1 contract to play in a bid to level the playing field. Their actions came in the wake of 1970 US Open prize money being made 12 times higher for male competitors.

Young ball girls and boys will get to toss this special coin for matches at this month's Australian Open and take home that little piece of sporting history, reflected in silver.

Tennis Australia had set the 2021 Open as a chance to honour the Original 9, following last year's 50-year commemoration for Margaret Court's grand slam. The Original 9's historic contract signing was on September 23, 1970, and this year's Open is the first Australian Open since the 50-year anniversary date.

SPARKLING: A commemorative coin, featuring Ballarat's Judy Dalton on the left, to be used in Australian Open matches this year. Picture: courtesy ANZ

SPARKLING: A commemorative coin, featuring Ballarat's Judy Dalton on the left, to be used in Australian Open matches this year. Picture: courtesy ANZ

While coronavirus restrictions prevent the Original 9 from reforming in Melbourne, Dalton (née Tegart) said the chance to have her captured in action alongside Melville on a coin was special.

"It's lovely, a real honour and lovely for Tennis Australia to acknowledge us," Dalton said.

Not so at the time, however. Australasian Lawn Tennis Association (now Tennis Australia) suspended Dalton and Melville. Dalton had already become a Wimbledon singles finalist.

The pair were blocked from the Australian Open and state tournaments. They were barred from using Slanzenger racquets and wearing Dunlop shoes.

Grand Slams were completely off the cards.

Amid a changing landscape for women's rights, tobacco giant Phillip Morris backed the Original 9's new tour and gradually the game changed. Ripple effects included changes to the United States' collegiate sports system for gender equality in scholarships.

Judy Dalton

Judy Dalton

As for who might win this year's Open, for Dalton it was very much a toss of her coin after such a tumultuous, interrupted year and unprecedented lead-up.

"Let's hope Ash (Barty) is there in the final. You can't tell because you can train as much as you like but nothing replaces matches and she hasn't had any in a year," Dalton said.

"It was good Ash played against (Simona) Halep the other day...it was not a real pressure thing. I think Ash has the personality that may be able to cope with all that."

Dalton was not yet convinced Serena Williams would be able to win the Australian Open in her chase to equal Margaret Court's grand slam singles record of 24 titles. But Dalton was interested to see what would unfold.

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Traditionally in the commentary box, Dalton has instead opted to watch this year's Open play out on her television.

Dalton, who now lives in an independent retirement village in Melbourne, said it was far too risky for herself and fellow residents in a rapidly changing COVID-19 world.

She has accepted an invitation for the final three days' play to take part in an inspirational luncheon with Julia Gillard on the final Thursday, the women's doubles final on Friday - an event Dalton won four times (1964, 1967, 1969 and 1970) - and the women's singles final on Saturday.

This year marks the fourth year celebrating the ANZ Commemorative Coin. Previous coins have featured Australian tennis greats Dylan Alcott, Rod Laver and Evonne Goolagong-Cawley.

This story Gender equality action remembered in coin to inspire at Australian Open first appeared on The Courier.