Film throws light on Battle of Sexes

Film throws light on Battle of Sexes

As Wimbledon gets under way, former US tennis champion Billie Jean King is telling the tale of how she struck one of the most famous blows for female equality in a new documentary film


"The Battle of the Sexes" recounts King's journey from an amateur player to a feminist sports idol whose 1973 defeat of self-confessed "chauvinist pig" Bobby Riggs set women's rights and tennis on the road to a modern game where Serena Williams can enjoy equal status and prize money with Novak Djokovic.

At the film's premiere in the Scottish capital this weekend, the 69-year old six time Wimbledon champion told Reuters that these days, top players like Williams have come a long way from 1970s, when the documentary says women needed approval from their husbands to arrange their own finances.

"Well, I would say for the most part the players today are living our dream," said King, who narrates and is executive producer of the film directed by James Erskine and Zara Hayes.

The year she beat Riggs, King also won Wimbledon to earn 3,000 pounds. The 1973 men's champion, Jan Kodes, earned 5,000 pounds. This year the men's and ladies' singles champions will each take home 1.6 million pounds ($2.46 million).

The film's historical footage follows King's rise as a young tennis prodigy alongside the bra-burning demonstrations of the US women's movement cut with contemporary TV commercials in which men order their wives to iron their shirts and rail against the stroppy proponents of feminism.

On the Riggs match, King says: "I knew I had to play him then.”

The film climaxes with the nail-biting on-court confrontation between the 29-year-old queen of the court and self-promoting Riggs in Houston, Texas that was watched by some 100 million people on television.

The outcome is well known. King beat Riggs in straight sets.