The ‘Hustler’ vs. the Feminist Champion: Inside the ‘Battle of the Sexes’

The ‘Hustler’ vs. the Feminist Champion: Inside the ‘Battle of the Sexes’

- in Tennis
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Ms. King, then 29, made headlines with her victory at the Astrodome. But she was already a star. Her name made regular appearances on The Times’s sports pages for years before she was challenged by Mr. Riggs, and she was known as a champion of gender equality and equal pay.

Photo

An article about Ms. King’s victory over Mr. Riggs in The New York Times on Sept. 21, 1973.

Credit
The New York Times

Mr. Riggs challenged her to a game because he was certain that female athletes were inferior — so much so that a young champion would not be able to beat a 55-year-old man “with one foot in the grave,” as he liked to put it.

Then as now, female athletes typically did not earn as much as their male counterparts. There was a lack of devoted trainers for professional female tennis players.

In a May 27, 1973, issue of The Times Magazine, an article headlined “Perfume in the Locker Room” delved deep into the experiences of female athletes.

For one thing, they have physical problems male athletes never face. One player admitted she dreads a match on the first day of her menstrual…