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post #1 of 70 (permalink) Old Dec 9th, 2004, 03:28 PM Thread Starter
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The difference between Margaret and Billie Jean

This question has bugged me for a while, so I'm going to ask it!

Why did Margaret Court lose so easily to Bobby Riggs, yet Billie Jean could beat him so easily. Having not seen either match, and not knowing too much about it except what I've read in various tennis bios, it's always been a mystery to me. We always get a graphic account of BJK's victory, but only a sentence or two in passing about Margaret's loss, so I've never really had an idea what happened in that match.

Was it her nerves? Had she just come back from injury/pregnancy? It was during a time that she was still quite a force on the tour (she may have even been number 1 in the world at the time). Was she disinterested? Or was Bobby just too good on the day, and had a major let down against BJK?

I am quite certain that if you put any other of the great champions on the line, from Chris to Martina to Steffi to Monica to Serena, they would have turned up on the day playing their hearts out to win.

Opinions and accounts of either match would be much appreciated.
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post #2 of 70 (permalink) Old Dec 9th, 2004, 03:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BCP
This question has bugged me for a while, so I'm going to ask it!

Why did Margaret Court lose so easily to Bobby Riggs, yet Billie Jean could beat him so easily. Having not seen either match, and not knowing too much about it except what I've read in various tennis bios, it's always been a mystery to me. We always get a graphic account of BJK's victory, but only a sentence or two in passing about Margaret's loss, so I've never really had an idea what happened in that match.

Was it her nerves? Had she just come back from injury/pregnancy? It was during a time that she was still quite a force on the tour (she may have even been number 1 in the world at the time). Was she disinterested? Or was Bobby just too good on the day, and had a major let down against BJK?

I am quite certain that if you put any other of the great champions on the line, from Chris to Martina to Steffi to Monica to Serena, they would have turned up on the day playing their hearts out to win.

Opinions and accounts of either match would be much appreciated.
Well, from reading the thread topic, I was off on a totally different tangent than the meat of your thread!!! I was prepared to give you an assessment of the differences in their games, but you then couched the question around the Battle of the Sexes exhibitions from 1973.

First off, it must be understood that Bobby Riggs had been petitioning the top women players for quite some time, and Billie Jean (according to her autobiographies) had always steadfastly refused him. Tennis was, for the first time in the early 70s, starting to become big business, and neither Margaret nor Billie Jean were strangers to getting on a plane to go play a match for a big check. When Bobby finally got Margaret to bite down on the "Mother's Day" exhibition in San Diego, he was very fit, and he also surprised her, according to Margaret "I didn't expect so many soft shots. We girls don't play like that", and she went out there trying to out-hit him and overpower him- she played him like he was a man, and didn't make the adjustments. If you read Billie Jean's account of her blood-in-the-eyes-of-the-can't-lose-this-match-for-the-women's-movement "re-match" in the Astrodome, you'll hear that she learned from Margaret's mistakes, and gave him a taste of his own medicine. Also, by that time Riggs had put on quite a bit of weight, and was noticeably slower. Not to take anything away from Billie Jean's adroit tactical maneuvering of the match, but she had a much bigger pigeon that night than Margaret, and to be objective, Billie Jean was riding a crest of energy (she did it for all women- Madge did it for the money) that drove her to victory.

Don't shoot me for saying this (and anyone who knows me knows I'm a far cry from the last male chauvanist pig on the planet) I'm also not so sure that the whole "Battle of the Sexes" result wasn't staged, and that Mr. Riggs made more money for losing the match.

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post #3 of 70 (permalink) Old Dec 9th, 2004, 03:56 PM Thread Starter
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Though surely the two matches were played in a relatively short time span, and certainly not long enough for any material weight gain.

Also, Margaret is a 24 times singles GS champion. I find it extraordinary that she didn't have the flexibity to change or adapt a losing game.

However, all this speculation is for nought if money changed hands for Bobby to lose to BJK. Which then makes her victory a farce, and hence a part of her legacy a farce.............
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post #4 of 70 (permalink) Old Dec 9th, 2004, 05:11 PM
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Originally Posted by BCP
Though surely the two matches were played in a relatively short time span, and certainly not long enough for any material weight gain.

Also, Margaret is a 24 times singles GS champion. I find it extraordinary that she didn't have the flexibity to change or adapt a losing game.

However, all this speculation is for nought if money changed hands for Bobby to lose to BJK. Which then makes her victory a farce, and hence a part of her legacy a farce.............
True, Margaret won 24 major singles titles, and is arguably the greatest player of all time, however, several factors must be considered (and if you compare any one of these factors with the same things Billie Jean had going, you'll see my point):

Margaret Court
1. She was a conservative woman playing a raucous gambling man;
2. The exhibition was televised locally and in some places nationally by CBS Sports;
3. It was played at a time when the Women's Lib movement was at its peak in the USA (and to a lesser extent, worldwide)- Margaret's contribution to the movement was "I've no wish to wear the pants";
4. While Margaret did have her run-ins early on with the Nell Hopman and the ALTA, she was a quiet, reserved, and generally traditional-minded girl, who never was a part of the "lib" movement;
5. Bobby Riggs was one of the best tennis tacticians and champions of gamesmanship of all time; and
6. Margaret's child dropped her favorite pair of tennis shoes in the hotel room toilet the morning of the match (okay- weak, but this was before the days when Nike supplied an unending flow of air, and broken in converse canvas was important).

as compared to:

Billie Jean King
1. She was an outspoken activist fighting for equal rights, Title XVIX, and was instrumental in starting the Virginia Slims Tour- Bobby wanted her first;
2. The exhibition was televised to a worldwide audience;
3. The hype leading up to Houston in September was fueled (orchestrated?) by Margaret's loss;
4. Billie Jean was a rebel from childhood all the way through her run-ins with the SoCal Tennis Association and Perry Jones, and was a spokeswoman for the "women's lib" cause;
5. Billie Jean was (and is) every bit as good a tactician as Bobby Riggs was, and much less (if at all) susceptible to gamesmanship; and
6. There was NO WAY Billie Jean King was going to lose that match.

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post #5 of 70 (permalink) Old Dec 9th, 2004, 05:12 PM
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P.S.- Billie Jean King was not voted by Life Magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People of the 20th Century because of her tennis.

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post #6 of 70 (permalink) Old Dec 9th, 2004, 06:53 PM
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I'd also add that BJK had a slight advantage in that she was able to draw on Madge's match in deciding her strategy.

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post #7 of 70 (permalink) Old Dec 9th, 2004, 07:19 PM
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By the way, Margaret played Bobby on Mother's Day 1973 (May), and Bobby Riggs had all Summer to eat steak and fries on his own crest of a gambling binging Las Vegas nightclub promotional wave leading up to the September Battle of the Sexes. While he had been spouting his miraculous vitamin and fitness regimen all over Southern California leading up to his "Mother's Day Massacre" of Madge, he was a sitting chauvanist duck for Billie Jean by late September, AND, it is documented that he bet against himself just minutes before the match began.

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post #8 of 70 (permalink) Old Dec 9th, 2004, 08:59 PM
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Great job Alfa on breaking down Marge Court and BJK! From everything I've ever known or heard, I think you got it right. And those may well be important factors as to why Marge did so poorly against Riggs and BJK didnt.

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post #9 of 70 (permalink) Old Dec 9th, 2004, 09:19 PM
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Alfa-I'd be highly shocked if Riggs took money for losing on purpose. His endorsement value after beating Mags was high-he was much less bankable after the King match, while Billie Jean made big bucks in endorsements afterwards.

Had Riggs won he could have kept playing other women. After losing no one would bite again-not Billie Jean, nor Chris Evert, so losing didn't help his pocketbook.

Besides, if Riggs rigged the match wouildn't it at least gone 4 or 5 sets? The score was rather dull.

BTW-there was talk of a match vs. Tracy Austin in 1977-I'm not sure if they played or not.
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post #10 of 70 (permalink) Old Dec 9th, 2004, 09:25 PM
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Jack Kramer (a male chauvanist pig if ever there was one) said that the reason Riggs lost was he got out of shape and messed around with too many women after the Court match!!!

There is a new bio out on Riggs that has gotten good reviews. It's called "The Last Sure Thing."

When me and Alfa talked to 40's champ Pauline Betz (she did a pro tour with Riggs) she made him sound like a rogue, but a charming one.


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post #11 of 70 (permalink) Old Dec 9th, 2004, 11:13 PM
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Anyone know if when Riggs was trying to get Evert to play him back in '72, '73 whether he really wanted to market it as "Beauty vs Beast"? This is according to the prime time movie on King vs Riggs from about two yrs ago on network tv.

IMO, the key variable in King's straight set win was the fact that along with Gonzales, Sampras and a few others, King was the best big match player in tennis history...+ she simply wanted it more (than Court). For King, the match drew up the same kind of passion/fire akin to South Americans playing in a Davis Cup final - or arguably more. Simply playing for yourself/playing for the money doesn't invigorate those same passions. Champions are suppose to adjust, which leads me to believe that Madge simply didn't play like a champion that day...evidently she didn't realize quite who she was stepping up against, ie, the colorfully wacky, snaggled-toothed*, one-man-circus that was Riggs.

*nice descrip AJ!
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post #12 of 70 (permalink) Old Dec 9th, 2004, 11:21 PM
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Plus, according to King in a recent interview, Court didn't completely understand the significance that the match might take on, being from a different country, culture, background, etc. Thus, as has been alluded to here already, her attitude was far more casual about the whole thing, not being particularly feminist in her outlook on life...
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post #13 of 70 (permalink) Old Dec 10th, 2004, 07:36 AM
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It always amazes me when some always make excuses when Margaret Court Loses. I've read on several threads where either she was coming back from pregnancy or returning after a layoff, etc... has Court ever been beaten when she played her best!

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post #14 of 70 (permalink) Old Dec 10th, 2004, 08:20 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks for all the comments and views guys. It's interesting to hear all the comments. A couple of things struck me. Alfa, even though Margaret was not a feminist, surely as one of the if not THE best player of all time, and being a champion, surely her pesonal pride would have meant that she would have turned up to play to win, especially in front of such a large audience. That was the point I was trying to make when I said that any of the other greats, from Chris to Martina to Steffi to Monica and Serena would have turned up highly motivated to win.

Also, I'm not sure what is the H2H b/w Margaret and Billi Jean, but I'm sure that Margaret would lead in that H2H, and I feel that she is a more complete player as well.

As an aside I vaguely recall Martina playing Jimmy Connors or someone in the 80s where she was allowed the doubles alley. I think she lost something like 6-4 or 7-5(?)
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post #15 of 70 (permalink) Old Dec 10th, 2004, 09:19 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by macn
It always amazes me when some always make excuses when Margaret Court Loses. I've read on several threads where either she was coming back from pregnancy or returning after a layoff, etc... has Court ever been beaten when she played her best!
Yes, Ann Jones beat a superb Margaret in the 1969 Wimbledom semi.
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