In 1999 I visited the International Tennis Hall of Fame twice due to living in Providence, Rhose Island. Getting to Newport was fairly easy despite not having a car as Rhode Island has a good public transportation system that serves the whole state (being small has its advantages). I visited again in 2008 after a fire had destroyed some of the materials. Luckily, the display on the Billie Jean King-Bobby Riggs match was not destroyed by the fire.
This video is rather amazing as a WTA player expects Riggs to have a heart attack and Brent Musburger jokes about John Wayne, a spectator, protecting the venue from any potential attacks that could be made by a local group of Native Americans … I wasn’t born until 1975, but that seems like an outrageous statement.
Having seen the exhibit 3 times, I can tell you that it was a major part of the tour. Each era of tennis had racquets, shoes, ticket stubs, highlights etc. on display. The Battle of the Sexes Match had an entire room devoted to it (displays change so I cannot say for sure if that is the case today). I learned about Riggs’ match with Margaret Court that predated his Astrodome showdown with King. Riggs beat Court 6-2, 6-1 in May, 1973. Riggs won on Mother’s Day and the match was dubbed “The Mother’s Day Massacre.” Riggs win was even more improbable given that court won the Australian, French, and US Open singles and doubles titles in 1973.
The other thing I recall about the museum display is that they had a jacket made for Riggs by the candy “Sugar Daddy.” The museum also had a giant Sugar Daddy candy on display that was used as a prop during the pomp and circumstances of the Astrodome match. The whole thing looked like a campy tennis circus. King won the match in straight sets in front of a huge live crowd and a bigger television audience.
The Battle of the Sexes display was an interesting part of the museum, but I have to say the displays on the origins of tennis, the racquet Steffi Graf used to close out the 1988 US Open, and even the active Royal/Real/Court Tennis Court made a bigger impression on me as a visitor.
I will get into why I think King won while Court lost in part 2. The obsession with majors may have been smaller in 1973 than it is in 2017, but Court won 3 singles majors and three doubles majors in 1973. She was likely the best player on the WTA Tour in 1973, but the results were quite different. Stay tuned for part 2 to get my A>B>C>A reasoning.
Bonus – Royal/Real/Court Tennis in Newport, Rhode Island
The scoring system in this version of tennis is quite complex