LOS ANGELES, September 10, 2003 —
In recognition of the 30th anniversary of the historic "Battle of the Sexes" tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, The Tennis Channel has obtained the exclusive rights to the match and will telecast it in its entirety, Saturday, Sept. 20, at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT. This marks the first time the classic groundbreaking match will be seen in its entirety in 30 years.
The network also will premiere an original production "Billie Jean vs. Bobby: A Special Edition of Center Court with Chris Myers," immediately following the match, at 10:30 p.m. ET. The 90-minute special includes in-studio guest King and exclusive, never-before-seen interview footage with Riggs, filmed shortly before he passed away in 1995.
The "Battle of the Sexes" match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs is debatably the most impactful sporting event in history. The ultra-hyped exhibition between King, the outspoken star and pioneer of modern-day women's professional tennis, and Riggs, the self-proclaimed male chauvinist, took place Sept. 20, 1973 at the Houston Astrodome. Attracting an estimated television audience of 50 million, the extravaganza was produced with an abundance of fan-fare by the ABC Monday Night football team, with Howard Cosell, in his inimitable style, calling the action along with commentators Rosie Casals and Gene Scott and sideline reporter Frank Gifford. King seized the moment and defeated Riggs in straight sets (6-4, 6-3, 6-3), forever changing the landscape of women's sports and helping to empower the larger women's movement.
In "Billie Jean vs. Bobby: A Special Edition of Center Court with Chris Myers," Tennis legend and Hall of Famer King sits down with host Chris Myers to share her thoughts on that extraordinary prime-time showdown at the Houston Astrodome and how it changed her life, her career and the sport of tennis. In this "Center Court" exclusive, King also spars one more time with the late Riggs, as the controversial and loveable maestro of tennis hype offers his own counter-point views of the match and its historical significance.
"The 'Battle of the Sexes' was not only a major turning point for tennis, sports television and women's sports in general but, because of its immense social value, it could arguably rank as the most impactful sporting event ever," says The Tennis Channel President and Founder Steve Bellamy. "With Howard Cosell at the peak of his game, there is incredible excitement in this production. We're extremely proud to be able to offer exclusively one of tennis' most memorable matches in its entirety for the first time in three decades."
"The special edition of 'Center Court' will give viewers a fresh and compelling perspective on the match that shook the sports world 30 years ago to the day." adds Bruce Rider, The Tennis Channel executive vice president of programming and marketing and executive producer. "Billie Jean is extremely generous in sharing her personal thoughts on the event, as well as the newly-discovered Bobby Riggs comments made 10 years ago. In his interview, Riggs showed the same feistiness and charm he was known for throughout his career."
One of the most influential tennis players of all time, Billie Jean King founded the Women's Tennis Association in 1973 and is widely recognized as the driving force in the USTA's decision to offer equal prize money to men and women beginning with the US Open that same year. Elected to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1987, King holds a record 20 Wimbledon titles for singles, doubles and mixed doubles play, including three straight singles championships from 1966-68. Named Sports Illustrated magazine's "Sportsperson of the Year" in 1972 and "Female Athlete of the Year" in 1973, King won 13 titles at the US Championships/US Open, including five national women's doubles titles and four mixed doubles titles. A strong proponent of equal rights, King also co-founded the gender-balanced World TeamTennis pro league and the Women's Sports Foundation in 1974.
Bobby Riggs (1918-1995), probably best known to today's audience for his male chauvinist antics in the 1970s and helping to grow women's tennis into a major spectator and money sport, is considered one of the greatest players of all time. A former Wimbledon and US Open champion, Riggs was ranked No. 1 in the world in 1939, the same year he won a rare Grand Slam Triple, winning Wimbledon singles, doubles and mixed-doubles titles in the same year, a feat later matched by King in 1973. The Los Angeles native also won U.S. singles titles in 1946, 1947 and 1949 and played on the U.S. Davis Cup team in 1938-39. After writing his autobiography, "Tennis Is My Racquet" in 1949, Riggs began working in a variety of promotional endeavors until he brought the world's focus on the now infamous match with King.
Among the "Center Court" special's many surprises, King and Riggs reflect on what the "super match" meant to each of them at the time and what changes they observed as a result.
"It wasn't just about a tennis match and making a lot of money.," recalls King. "This was about history, getting us on to a more level playing field because of Title IX and the women's movement, all that was very close to my heart and very important to me.
"The little boys that were watching, that are in their 40s now and early 50s, I call them the first generation of men of the women's movement," King adds. "I can't tell you how many men have come up to me to tell me: 'Billie, that match changed my life.' These men are the first to insist that their daughters and sons have equal opportunities, and that's amazing."
"I'm very proud to have been a part of the biggest tennis spectacular that ever took place," remembers Riggs, in taped comments to air on "Center Court." "It was a Bobby Riggs production all the way. Billie Jean was the happiest person in the world, on Cloud 9. Women around the world were on Cloud 9. They won the dollar bets with their husbands; they won the bets at the office. They forgave me for being a male chauvinist pig after that. I was now the hero."
"Center Court with Chris Myers" is The Tennis Channel's signature interview series. Each episode showcases Myers, a former host of ESPN's "SportsCenter" and "Up Close" programs, in exclusive conversations with the tennis world's leading players, coaches, legends, luminaries and newsmakers.
The Tennis Channel ( www.thetennischannel.com ) is a 24-hour cable television network devoted to tennis and other racquet sports that provides unparalleled coverage of the game, its elite championships and superstar athletes. The network features comprehensive coverage of major tournaments including ATP, WTA Tour, World TeamTennis, Fed Cup, Davis Cup by BNP Paribas and Hyundai Hopman Cup competition and the European tournaments of the Tennis Masters Series. The network also showcases instruction from the finest teachers, legendary matches, in-depth profiles of the greatest players, analysis and news, the latest on equipment and tennis getaways.