Billie Jean King And Her Wife Dated For More Than 30 Years Before Getting Married

billie jean king wife ilana kloss
Who Is Billie Jean King’s Wife, Ilana Kloss? Robert Prange - Getty Images

Billie Jean King is a living legend in the tennis world. The former world No.1 tennis player has a whopping 39 Grand Slam titles and has been a huge champion for social justice, equality, and gender equality in sports.

The 80-year-old has been dubbed the “Mother of Sports” and continues to make headlines for championing equal pay for women in sports. Billie just did an interview with People where she discussed her Billie Jean King Foundation and her home life. Naturally, her wife came up.

But who is Billie Jean King’s Wife, Ilana Kloss, and what is she doing now? Here’s what you need to know.

Who is Billie Jean King’s wife?

Ilana Kloss is a former professional tennis player. Like Billie, she was once ranked No.1 in doubles (and No.19 in singles). Ilana has a bunch of titles to her name, including being a U.S. Open doubles champion, French Open mixed doubles champion, and two-time Wimbledon over-35 doubles champion, according to the Women’s Sports Foundation.

They first met when Ilana served as Billie Jean’s ball girl.

At 68, Ilana is 12 years younger than her wife. While Billie Jean was crushing it on the court, Ilana was helping out on the sidelines. Ilana was born in South Africa and served as a “ball girl” at a tournament in Johannesburg, where Billie Jean says they met.

“Ilana is the best thing that ever happened to me,” Billie Jean told People. “She inspires me every day. We often say ‘I dream it and she builds it.’ She has an amazing ability to get in the solution and move things forward without ever losing sight of the original vision. Not everyone can do that.”

They were together for over 30 years before they got married.

Ilana and Billie Jean met in 1966, soon after Billie Jean married attorney and real estate broker Larry King, People reports. While they first interacted when Ilana was Billie Jean’s ball girl, they didn’t actually get together for another 20 years.

Billie Jean said her sexuality was a “continuum.”

“I only liked guys when I was young. I didn't think about girls. And then all of a sudden I'm like, 'Oh my God, what's happening?' My truth was changing over time. It took me forever,” she said.

The couple got married in a secret ceremony in 2018. "Nobody threw rice or smashed wedding cake in the other's face," Billie Jean later said in her memoir. "One of the brides wore jeans and a lovely red scarf and the other had on a black shirt, a comfortable warm‑up suit, and pearls—ha!—a personal touch of glamour that Ilana still teases me about."

They’re partners in life and business.

The couple have kept incredibly busy since retiring from professional tennis. They co-founded the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative which has a “focus on creating a world where workplaces are free of discrimination and inequality.”

Ilana is also the CEO of Billie Jean King Enterprises, which is a women-led investment, consulting, and marketing firm, according to LinkedIn.

They remain passionate about women in sports.

Billie Jean and Ilana are courtside regulars at the US Open and other major tennis tournaments. The couple also plan to travel to Paris for the Olympics this summer.

“With women, I'll tell you, there's three goals that we had when we started women's professional tennis," Billie Jean said. "That any girl born in this world, if she's good enough, will have a place to play and compete. Number two, that she'll be appreciated for her accomplishments, not only her looks. And number three, she’ll be able to make a living. And those three things I think have been accomplished.”

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