In 1971 Billie Jean King became the first woman in sport to top $100,000 winnings in a single year. In 1973 she earned an estimated $150,000 for playing a single match. At the time Billie Jean, age 29, was the worlds number one. Her opponent in this match, billed as ‘The Battle of the Sexes’, was 55 year old Bobby Riggs, whose time at the top of the men’s rankings had come in the 1940’s. The match took place in the Houston Astrodome on September 20th, 1973 in front of the largest crowd ever to watch a tennis match (30,472). An estimated 40 million watched on TV, the game being broadcast in over 30 countries. Riggs was a ‘hustler’ and a publicity maestro. In the lead up to the event he hammed it up in the role of a chauvinist. He had previously beaten Margaret Court, and vowed that despite his age, no woman could beat him, and he promised to jump off a bridge if he lost, although it is rumoured that he bet heavily on his opponent.
King was borne into the arena on a gold chariot, carried by five toga-clad men. True to character Riggs arrived in a gold rickshaw pulled by six young women who were referred to as Bobby’s Bosom Buddies.
Billie Jean won with relative ease, a 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 straight sets victory.