The most memorable Battle of the Sexes was in September of 1973 between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King. Over a whole generation of tennis fans missed this spectacle. Now if John McEnroe and Serena Williams would go along, this latest update could end up being the best.
Many of the elements of the Riggs-King match are present in this proposed contest. At the time, Riggs was 55 years old and King was 29. Currently, McEnroe is 55 and Williams is 32 years old.
Riggs was a top player in the 1940’s and a no. 1 with six major titles. It does pale in comparison to McEnroe’s 7 Grand Slam singles and 9 Grand Slam doubles titles, but both share a reputation for being crafty and outspoken players.
Current no. 1 Serena Williams, holder of 32 major title and Billie Jean King with 39 Grand Slam trophies in singles and doubles, are closer in comparison than the men. Both women have been pioneers for tennis and sports in general.
The first Battle of the Sexes in May of 1973 pitted Riggs against Margret Court and the last in 1993 had Jimmy Connors squaring off against Martina Navratilova. The men won those encounters but King triumphed in her match against Riggs. At the time here were rumors that Riggs, a well known hustler, had thrown the competition to pay back debts to the mob. None of those allegations were ever confirmed.
The 1973 event was a media circus nationally televised at the Houston Astrodome. King arrived on a chair carried by bodybuilders dressed as ancient slaves and Riggs entered in a rickshaw pulled by scantily clad models. Riggs gave King a giant lollipop and in exchange she gave him a small pig named Larimore Hustle.
There was Twitter talk of Andy Murray playing Serena Williams but even Serena said "That would be fun. I doubt I'd win a point, but that would be fun."
The McEnroe-Williams match appears to be a much closer competition and has all the makings of a media circus. Between McEnroe’s outrageous on court behavior and Williams equally dramatic appearances, the possibilities are endless.
John, Serena, I’ll be waiting to hear back.