The Battle of the Sexes: Billie Jean King vs. Bobby Riggs
The Battle of the Sexes was a highly publicized tennis match between Billie Jean King, a top female tennis player, and Bobby Riggs, a former men’s champion, that took place on September 20, 1973, at the Houston Astrodome in Texas, and became a symbol of the fight for gender equality in sports and society.
Bobby Riggs, a former world number one tennis player and Wimbledon champion, had been a vocal critic of women’s tennis, claiming that even at age 55, he could defeat any female player. In 1973, Riggs challenged Billie Jean King, then 29 years old and one of the best female tennis players in the world, to a match that would test his claims.
King initially declined Riggs’ challenge, but after Riggs defeated another top female player, Margaret Court, in a similar exhibition match dubbed the “Mother’s Day Massacre” on May 13, 1973, King agreed to face Riggs in a winner-takes-all match for $100,000.
The Battle of the Sexes match attracted massive media attention and was watched by an estimated 90 million viewers worldwide, making it one of the most-watched tennis matches in history. Over 30,000 spectators attended the Houston Astrodome event, filled with a circus-like atmosphere and intense anticipation.
During the match, Billie Jean King outplayed Bobby Riggs in straight sets, winning 6-4, 6-3, 6-3, and securing a significant victory for women’s tennis and the broader fight for gender equality. The match made King an international icon and helped to dispel the notion that female athletes were inherently inferior to their male counterparts.
The Battle of the Sexes had a lasting impact on the perception of women’s sports. It contributed to the growth of women’s tennis, with King becoming a leading advocate for gender equality and equal pay in professional sports. The event has been the subject of several documentaries and a 2017 feature film, further cementing its place in sports history and the broader struggle for gender equality.