Billie Jean King describes Battle of the Sexes as ‘a catalyst for social change’
King, then 29 and the number one women’s tennis player in the world, had got the better of Riggs in three straight sets at the Houston’s Astrodome.
The US Open had turned out to be the very first sporting event in the world to come up with equal prize money for men and women tennis players. This year’s US Open marked the 50 years of equal pay at the Flushing Meadows. September 20 marked another 50th anniversary, which is of Billie Jean King's memorable ‘Battle of the Sexes’ match. King and men’s tennis legend Bobby Riggs were involved in a fixture in September 1973. King, then 29 and the number one women’s tennis player in the world, had got the better of Riggs in three straight sets at the Houston’s Astrodome. She required around two hours to beat Riggs 6‐4, 6‐3, 6‐3.
As per an ESPN report, the match was viewed by around 90 million people globally. But more than the result of the match, what was important for King was the advancement of the women's rights movement. As per The New York Times, the match was held in an “atmosphere more suited for a circus than a sports event.”
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King herself shared her thoughts on that particular event. “The Battle of the Sexes was played 50 years ago today. More than a tennis match, it was a catalyst for social change & one of the most important days of my life. We have come a long way since 1973, but we are not done yet. Let's keep going for it,” King wrote on social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.
It was former world number one Billie Jean King who played a key role in introducing pay parity in the game. Having won the US Open title in 1972, she threatened to boycott next year’s edition unless the same amount of money was offered to female and male tennis players. Her struggle, eventually, paid off in the very next year.
The U.S. Tennis Association made the 1973 US Open the first sporting competition in the world to give equal amount of prize money to men and women tennis players. The Australian Open did the same for the first time back in 1984. The Australian Open kept on offering equal pay consistently since 2001. Both the French Open and Wimbledon started providing equal purses for their men and women participants.
This year’s competition at the Flushing Meadows offered each of the winners $3 million, with total player compensation going up as much as to $65 million. “I think the presentation of the sport and equal prize money being secured 50 years ago has come a long way as to why women in tennis have achieved what they’ve achieved,” said Lew Sherr, the executive director of the USTA, as per news agency AP.
The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), on the other hand, had announced plans to increase the pay at some of the high-profile competitions to the same as the men.