We finish our "Champions of Equity" campaign for 2020/2021 with the story of the famous tennis match between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King, also known as "Battle of the Sexes".
In 1973, ex-champion Bobby Riggs (tennis star of the 30s and 40s) and female world champion Billie Jean King decided to play each other, in the backdrop of a political climate that was beginning to lean more and more towards the Feminist movement.
King, over the course of her career, became a pillar of the movement, hoping for increases to women’s rights, launching numerous battles for equality and speaking out openly against the pay-gap in the prize money for men’s and women's tennis. The champion often criticised the limited fees handed out by the international federation, which actually, at times, denied female players even the means to sign up to play in tournaments in the first place.
This match, which became so historically significant, was organised due to some of the comments that Bobby Riggs had made about the women’s game, probably in a quest for notoriety. He claimed that women were far inferior to men at tennis, so much so that a pensioner could beat the best female athlete in the world.
The showdown between King and Riggs took place on the 20 September 1973, at the Houston Astrodome. In front of 30,000 passionate spectators in Texas - and a further 90 million viewers around the world - King was victorious, not even giving up a set. It finished 6-4, 6-3, 6-3. At the end of the game, Riggs - in a sporting gesture - offered King a hand-shake over the net, hugged his opponent and admitted that he had underestimated her.
That sporting event contributed greatly to the growth of women's tennis and became a symbol, changing forever the perception of female athletes - and, to an extent, the perception of all women in America and around the world.