Originally Posted by Sumarokov-Elston
As for Court v King, I think 1973 is the perfect example of how much better Court was than King. My God, Court yet again won 3/4 of a Grand Slam!! And King only won Wimbledon because Evert put out Court in the semis, then was too inexperienced in the final (plus was going through a teenage rebellion phase because her mum wouldn't leave her alone with men for five seconds). I wonder if King would have won the French Open in 1972 if Evert had played? She handed the Old Lady's ass to her on a plate in January 1972, beating her 6-1, 6-0 at Fort Lauderdale (ok, I think BJK had just had her abortion, but she also beat her in straight sets in April in St Petersburg, Florida). Goodness only knows why Chrissie avoided the French (could that have been a fourth title she forfeited there?!?) and then played the Wightman Cup on grass at Wimbledon, Queen's Club and then the All-England!
King injured her wrist in January 1973, causing her to miss about 1 month of tournaments. In her second tournament after returning to the tour, she snapped Court's 59 match winning streak. Two weeks later, she lost to Court in a very close final that was 3-3 in the final set before King lost her serve. That was King's last match for a month because of torn abdominal muscles. Back to the drawing board ... In the first tournament of her second restart of the year, Court beat her easily in the Boston final. King blamed lack of match play for the up and down quality of her play. But she also said that Court"s serve during 1973 was the best she had seen in a long time. The tour played on clay for 2 weeks, with King losing in the quarters and semis. King then beat Nancy Richey in the indoor Tokyo final. King took a month off and did not defend her French Open title. On Engllsh grass, King went undefeated in singles, women's doubles, and mixed doubles, including a sweep of the titles at Wimbledon. I think that up to this point, Court clearly was having the best year, but King was not far behind. When play resumed after Wimbledon, King won the title in Denver. Her winning streak in singles reached 26 matches before Court beat her in the 3-set Nashville final on clay. The difference was that Court lost her serve 5 times compared to King's 8 (terrible numbers for both).
This is when the distraction and pressure of the upcoming Bobby Riggs match caused King to fall apart on the regular tour, including her meltdown (while sick) at the US Open. Her one accomplishment at Forest Hills was that she and Owen Davidson handed Court the first loss of her career in mixed doubles at the US Nationals/Open. Her record sank to 39-1 with 9 titles out of 10 attempts since 1961. This was King's third mixed doubles title out of 10 attempts since 1959, and her record in that event improved to 27-7.
My opinion is that when Court cluelessly embarrassed herself and women's tennis during the Mother's Day Massacre, she clinched the World No. 1 ranking for the year. Court has always dismissed the importance of her loss, but the truth is that she put the credibility of women's tennis and, more generally, all of women's sports at risk. King's match with Riggs then became astronomically important, with all the pressure on King's shoulders. Court adopted an "I don't care" attitude, declaring that she was not a "women's libber." Some of King's colleagues on the tour also hedged their futures and provided little or no public support of King. Arthur Ashe, who carefully built and guarded his public reputation for unimpeachable goodness, secretly laid down bets in Las Vegas against King. Jack Kramer, who despised King and all of women's tennis because they refused to be the permanent undercard of his business empire, eagerly awaited her long-deserved worldwide humiliation by the sport's chief con artist. I don't think any person of either gender could have handled the pressure better. But even King could not topple an in-form Court from World No. 1 while preparing for and winning the most publicly momentous tennis match in history. That match sealed King's reputation as the mother and protector of women's tennis and, sadly, the minimization of Court's incredible on-court accomplishments. 1973 was the fork-in-the-road for both.
Every 10 or 15 years, a woman reaches the prime of her tennis career and suddenly overturns the established pecking order. Dorothea Douglass Lambert Chambers, May Sutton Bumdy, Suzanne Lenglen, Molla Bjurstedt Mallory, Helen Wills Moody, Alice Marble, Pauline Betz, Maureen Connolly, Court, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf, Monica Seles, Serena Williams, and Justine Henin are members of that club.
King along with, for example, Althea Gibson, Ann Haydon Jones, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, Betty Nuthall, Beverley Baker Fleitz, Conchita Martinez, Darlene Hard, Doris Hart, Dorothy Akhurst, Dorothy Round Little, Ellizabeth Ryan, Evonne Goolagong Cawley, Françoise Durr, Hana Mandlikova, Helen Jacobs, Hilda Krahwinkel Sperling, Kim Clijsters, Kitty McKane Godfrey, Lesley Turner Bowrey, Li Na, Lindsay Davenport, Louise Brough, Margaret Osborne duPont, Maria Bueno, Maria Sharapova, Martina Hingis, Nancy Richey, Nancye Wynne Bolton, Olga Morozova, Rosemary Casals, Sarah Palfrey Cooke, Simone Mathieu, Tracy Austin, Venus Williams, and Virginia Wade won many titles but had either short careers or inferior records against the best of their era. But King is unique compared to all the others because she is among the most influential in the long struggle of all women for equality in life, not just in sport. Without Riggs, this would not have happened.