Sometimes, you get to meet your heroes and have a conversation with them. That’s what happened to Leylah Fernandez, who got to meet one of tennis’ greats during the Sports Illustrated Awards, which took place this week at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Florida. And it was made even better than that because said icon Billie Jean King actually recognized Fernandez.
King, who received the Sports Illustrated 2021 Muhammad Ali Legacy Award during the event, posted the picture with Fernandez herself. The award celebrates individuals whose dedication to the ideals of sportsmanship has spanned decades and whose career in athletics has impacted the world.
“Happy to be in the company of so many terrific athletes tonight, including [Leylah Fernandez],” King wrote on Twitter. She also shared another picture with Fernandez and Sloane Stephens, which she captioned “two of many women tennis players who are living our dream.”
King is as well known for advocating for gender equality in sports as she is for her long and storied tennis career. She won 39 Grand Slams (12 in singles, 16 in women’s doubles, and 11 in mixed doubles) and is widely regarded as one of the best players to have ever played the game.
Fernandez reached the US Open Final in 2021, for the first time in her career, and rose from the 88th ranked player in the world to the 24th. She was also recently named the WTA Most Improved Player of the Year.