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Today In History: May 13th, 1973

Photo Credits: Getty Images & William Vanderson/Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Photo Credits: Getty Images & William Vanderson/Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The First Battle of the Sexes Match Occurs Between Bobby Riggs and Margaret Court

On this day in 1973, the world witnessed a historic sporting event: the first Battle of the Sexes tennis match. Held at the Ramona Country Club in Ramona, California, the match brought together two formidable players from opposite ends of the gender spectrum: Margaret Court, an Australian serve-and-volley player known for her tough play at the net, and Bobby Riggs, a flamboyant American baseliner famous for his self-proclaimed male chauvinism.

Court, the reigning Wimbledon champion at the time, was known for her aggressive style of play, particularly at the net, where she dominated her opponents with precision and power. Riggs, on the other hand, was a charismatic and controversial figure in the world of tennis, known for his antics both on and off the court. Despite being past his prime, Riggs remained a skilled player and relished the opportunity to challenge the top female players of his era—Riggs had even gone so far as to state in 1973 that he felt the women’s game was inferior. The match was not just a showdown between two tennis champions, but also a symbol of the ongoing debates surrounding gender equality in sports.  As the anticipation grew and the media frenzy intensified, the stage was set for a match that would captivate the world and leave a lasting impact on the sport of tennis and society as a whole.

margaret court mid serve on tennis court
17th June 1961: Australian tennis player Margaret Smith in action on her way to beating Christine Truman in the final at the Kent Championships at Beckenham. (Photo Credit: Keystone/Getty Images)

When game day came, it was a disappointment for Court in the end. Riggs, in a move that wasn’t revealed until later, had allegedly intentionally had the court resurfaced to slow the game, giving him an advantage. This tactic immediately put Court at a disadvantage, disrupting the rhythm she was accustomed to on the hard-hitting women’s tour. Riggs capitalized on this by lobbing Court’s shots back to her, further unsettling her game. Despite Court’s formidable skill, Riggs emerged victorious, winning the match in straight sets with a score of 6-2, 6-1.

But the story didn’t end there. The moment the match ended, Riggs issued another challenge, this time to Billie Jean King. King, a prominent figure in women’s tennis and a vocal advocate for gender equality, accepted the challenge. Their much-anticipated showdown took place on September 20, 1973, in front of a sold-out Houston Astrodome crowd. Dubbed by some as “the libber vs. the lobber,” the match was a spectacle of athleticism, determination, and social significance. King, at 29 years old, prevailed over Riggs with a decisive victory of 6-4, 6-3, 6-3. Riggs, in a news conference after the match, conceded defeat, acknowledging King’s superior skill and speed on the court.

More from us: This ’70s Tennis Tournament Was One of the Most Stylish Sporting Events in History

The first Battle of the Sexes match between Margaret Court and Bobby Riggs on May 13, 1973 may have ended in Riggs’ favor, but its legacy extends far beyond the tennis court. It ignited conversations about gender equality in sports, paving the way for future generations of athletes to challenge stereotypes and push for inclusivity and fairness in all sporting arenas.

TVN News Poster

TVN News Poster is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News