“Battle of the Sexes” – Billie Jean King’s Legacy


It’s been almost fifty years since Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King faced off in the legendary “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match in 1973, and King is still making an impact. King was born to parents Betty and Bill Moffit on Nov. 22, 1943, in Long Beach, California. Like the rest of her family, she was very athletic and excelled in baseball and softball, playing on a shortstop team with girls who were four to five years older than her. However, it was around the age of 11 when King started to play tennis. After graduating from Long Beach Polytechnic High School in 1961, she attended California State University in Los Angeles (Los Angeles State College back then) but left in 1964 to focus on tennis.

In 1966, she won her first major singles championship at Wimbledon and continued to keep that title for the following two years. The year after she achieved her first U.S. Open singles championship win and her only Australian Open title. After becoming the world’s No. 1 ranking in women’s tennis in 1968, she became a professional. She claimed three Grand Slams titles in the same year in the U.S. Open, French Open, and Wimbledon in 1972. Throughout her entire professional career, King holds 39 Grand Slam titles: 12 in singles, 16 in women’s doubles, and 11 in mixed doubles, with a record of 20 titles from Wimbledon. 

Besides her record number of Grand Slams, Billie Jean King is likely best known for her match in 1973 against former men’s champion Bobby Riggs. The game was labeled “the Battle of the Sexes” after Riggs defeated the great Margaret Court in the “Mother’s Day Massacre” in May 1973. King beat Riggs in straight sets, and the two players competed before a televised audience of around 90 million viewers. She later acknowledged the pressure she felt since she was in her prime during her pro career and people all around the world were watching. However, she knew she needed to win for the women’s tour and women and girls in general. 

But the biggest life struggle she faced did not concern tennis in any matter. Instead, the dilemma at hand was accepting herself as a gay woman. She was publicly outed for her sexuality and held a media conference to address it, but the issue badly injured her career. Additionally, she grew up in a conservative household and had pressure from her husband, sponsors, and the tennis community not to come out. Eventually, she divorced Larry King in 1987 but still remained close friends. Now, she is happily married to former professional tennis player Ilana Kloss. Despite her retirement in 1990, King is still appearing in headlines and making a difference in the world as an advocate for women, the LGBTQIA+ community, and equality overall.