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Trailblazing Women’s tennis star Billie Jean King He defeated former men’s champion “miserable” Bobby Riggs, in a highly publicized match, called “The Battle of the Sexes,” on this day in history, September 20, 1973.
The made-for-television sports show proved a watershed moment in the fight for women’s equality in athletics.
King won the tennis match in straight sets (6-4, 6-3, 6-3) in front of more than 30,000 spectators in stellar houston And millions more across the country and the world on television.
“Not a single day has gone by that no one has asked me about that match,” King told Fox News Digital in an email commentary this week.
The King’s website notes that “50 million people in the United States and an estimated 90 million people around the world watched the match”.
It was “one of the most watched sports events on TV of all time” and “not many have seen a tennis match before or since.”
Prior to ABC’s prime-time broadcast, both athletes pulled it off in front of the cameras.
History.com wrote: “King entered Cleopatra-style entrance on golden droppings carried by men dressed as ancient slaves, while Riggs arrived in a wheelbarrow pulled by mannequins.”
Famous sports broadcaster Howard Kozel called the match, adding an air of luxury to the festivities.
King, 29 at the time, was in the midst of a dominant race. The California native won the French Open, the US Open, and Wimbledon in 1972.
She defended her title at Wimbledon just two months before the “Battle of the Sexes”, while winning eight other Grand Slam tournaments in her career.
Riggs, aged 55 during the match, was the world’s top tennis player in 1946 and 1947.
He made a huge splash in the international spotlight, winning Wimbledon as a 21-year-old amateur in 1939.
Riggs, who died in 1995, was also an outspoken chauvinist and self-proclaimed underestimation of female athletes. The King gave a giant lollipop before the match with “Sugar Daddy” written on it.
His coarse reputation has made Foz King taste sweeter to supporters around the world.
In addition to her lifelong acclaim, she earned $100,000 in payday in the Winner Takes All contest.
“This event was like no other before,” longtime Sports Illustrated photographer Neil Leifer said at the magazine’s last July show of the event.
“No one has ever held a tennis match in a court like this. It was a Hollywood production.”
Despite the spirit of public appearances, the matchers worked to legitimize the skill of the competitions.
It was played just one year after the Education Amendments of 1972, best known for the ninth title, which opened up female athletic opportunities in college.
King often said, “It was about social change, more than just tennis.”
She saw it as a victory for mathematics everywhere.
She said, as her website notes, “I thought it would set us back 50 years if I didn’t win this match. It would ruin the ladies.” [tennis] Round and affect the self-esteem of all women. Beating a 55-year-old guy wasn’t that exciting to me. The excitement was exposing a lot of new people to tennis.”
“It was about social change, much more than tennis.”
In 1971 King received more than $100,000 in prize money and is believed to be the first female athlete to reach the milestone.
“Nevertheless, significant pay disparities remain between male and female athletes, and King lobbied aggressively for change,” History.com wrote.
In 1973, the US Open became the first major tennis tournament to award the same amount of prize money to winners of either gender.
The King to this day remains a pioneer for many people around the world.
As she wrote in her autobiography, “All In,” published last year, she told her mother when she was a little girl, “Mom, I’m going to do something amazing with my life—I just know it! You watch.”
This included being a no. 1 tennis player in the world.
In 1973 she founded the Women’s Tennis Association. In 2006 she became the first woman to own a major sports venue named in her honor (USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, home of the US Open); And in 2009, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama, among her other accomplishments.