The Battle of the Sexes
Before the Match
In 1973, 55 year old Bobby Riggs challenged King to a tennis match that was dubbed the 'Battle of the Sexes.' The match was played on September 20, 1973 in the Astrodome in Houston, Texas.
"He [Bobby Riggs] was as old as my father, and I mean for me to beat him meant absolutely nothing athletically, OK, nothing. But it's what it represented."
-Billie Jean King 40 years after the 'Battle of the Sexes'
[Source: Time Magazine]
“Billie Jean King is one of the all time tennis greats, she’s one of the superstars, she’s ready for the big one, but she doesn’t stand a chance against me, women’s tennis is so far beneath men’s tennis, that’s what makes the contest with a 55-year-old man the greatest contest of all time.
The match was watched by about 90 million people worldwide, 50 million in the U.S. The match also had about 31,000 people in attendance in the Astrodome and it was the largest audience to see a tennis match in the U.S.
"The match was only a tennis match on the outside. It was really all about social change."
-Billie Jean King
[Source: American Masters]
King defeated Riggs 6-4, 6-3, 6-3. The match was a turning point in women's tennis. Women's tennis was getting better financially and was earning more respect.
"For several years after the match I would have these dreams that I either had not yet played the match or I had lost the match. Losing the match was simply not an option for me. I wanted to use the match to change the hearts and minds of society about women's roles. I wanted equal opportunities for men and women, boys and girls. We also had just started the first women’s professional tennis tour and we were working very hard to get it off the ground. If I had lost, all of those things would have suffered severe setbacks and things would have been different for women.
-Billie Jean King reflecting on what it would be like without the 'Battle of the Sexes'
[Source: Billie Jean King]
"Over the years since I played Bobby, I have had many women and men come up to me with great stories. I have had women tell me how the match gave them the confidence to go ask their bosses for a raise and how they used that night as a motivator to start standing up for what they wanted in life. Also, and just as important to me, several men told me they decided that night they wanted the same opportunities for their daughters that were available to their sons. I am always humbled that people give me credit for helping them, when in reality they chose to help themselves."
-Billie Jean King on the impact of the 'Battle of the Sexes'
[Source: Billie Jean King]