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Margaret Smith Court - Lost Battle Of The Sexes

Famous Sports StarsTennisMargaret Smith Court - Early Interest In Tennis, Trained In Melbourne, Early Victories, Turned Professional, Chronology, Related Biography: Coach Frank Sedgman - CONTACT INFORMATION, SELECTED WRITINGS BY COURT:

Lost Battle of the Sexes

In 1973, Court accepted the challenge to play male tennis player Bobby Riggs. King had already turned him down. Riggs, who was fifty-five years old at the time, had won Wimbledon in 1939 and believed that any male tennis player could beat the best woman tennis player in the world because men were superior to women. The match was a television event that would benefit charity.

Court agreed to play Riggs because she did not believe King was the best player of the time. However, she did not take the match seriously, was ill-prepared for the kind of game Riggs played, and lost badly 6-2, 6-1. She was not sure why she lost. She later told Jon Henderson of the Observer, "I wasn't ready for the showbiz side of it which I would have been if I'd played team tennis by then. I was used to playing at places like Wimbledon where you could hear a pin drop." The loss was embarrassing, though King later beat Riggs.

Despite the Riggs fiasco, 1973 turned out to be the last best year of Court's career. She won eighteen of twenty-five tournaments she entered. Her last victory in a Grand Slam event came in 1975, when she won the U.S. Open doubles championship. When she became pregnant with her third child in 1977, Court decided to permanently retire from professional tennis.

Margaret Smith Court

Over the course of their rivalry, Court won twenty-two of thirty-two matches against King, who nicknamed her "The Arm." She might have won more championships overall if she had not had her problem with nerves. As Gwilym S. Brown wrote in Sports Illustrated in 1970, of Court's strong tennis game, "It is powerful, destructive, relentless and seemingly without a flaw. Definitely not on the sweet side. She is a superbly athletic animal, the physical equal of a great many men, but determination is really Margaret Court's chief trademark. For almost 10 years … this passion to excel has made her the dominating figure in women's tennis."

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