Bobby Riggs: 5 Things About Tennis Icon Portrayed By Steve Carell In ‘Battle Of The Sexes’

The ‘Battle Of The Sexes’ is headed to the big screen! The film, opening on Sept. 22, sees Steve Carell portray the loudmouth Bobby Riggs, so get to know about the real man behind this legendary tennis match.

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1. Bobby Riggs was a tennis superstar long before the “Battle of the Sexes.” After Battle Of The Sexes (featuring Emma Stone, 28, and Steve Carell, 55) opens, a new generation of fans will associate Bobby Riggs with his battle with Billie Jean King, 73. However, he was a legit tennis champ. After starting to play the sport at age 11 in 1929, he quickly rose the top of the Southern California tennis circuit, winning the U.S. Junior title in 1935, according to He reached his first Grand Slam final at the French Open in 1939. He swept Wimbledon that year – winning the men’s singles, doubles, and mixed-doubles tournaments. Bobby earned the No. 1 world ranking, something he would do again in 1946 and 1947.

2. He had already won a “Battle Of The Sexes.After retiring from professional tennis, Bobby transitioned to more of a promoter. In 1973, at age 55, Bobby said that he could beat any of the top female players in the world. Bobby first challenged Billie Jean, but after she declined, the world’s No. 1 tennis player Margaret Court, 75, stepped up. The two fought on May 13, 1973 – Mother’s day. Well, it was dubbed the “Mother’s Day Massacre,” as Bobby easily beat Margaret in two sets, 6-2, 6-1.

3. Bobby was a notorious gambler. Though he was the son of a minister, Bobby got bit by the gambling bug early on, according to a lengthy piece over at ESPN. He won his first tennis racket on a bet at the age of 11, which only seemed to fuel his gambling career. Ahead of Wimbledon 1939, he visited a London betting shop and saw he was listed as a 25-1 odds to win. So, he bet on himself on making the clean sweep. He won $108,000 more than $1.7 million in today’s dollars. “I’ve got to have a bet going in order to play my best,” he wrote in his 1973 memoir, Court Hustler.

4. His family says he wasn’t a misogynist. “I would wish that the women would stay in the home and do the kitchen work and take care of the baby and compete in areas where they can compete in because it’s a big mistake for them to get mixed up in these mixed sex matches,” Bobby said during a news conference ahead of his match against Billie Jean. However, Lornie Kuhle (Bobby’s best friend) and his son Larry Riggs, say that this was all “shtick,” and that he viewed women as sequels as his first tennis coach was a woman.

Well, the act worked, as an estimated 90 people around the world tuned in to watch the primetime match. Billie Jean, who was 29 at the time, defeated Bobby, who was 55, in three straight sets, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3.

5. After the match, many suspected he purposely lost. With Bobby’s gambling habit, and how Billie Jean obliterated him after he demolished Margaret, many suspected he threw the match. “I know there was a rumor about that match,” he told tennis writer Steve Flink in 1995, as he was suffering from prostate cancer. “People said I was tanking, but Billie Jean beat me fair and square. I tried as hard as I could, but I made the classic mistake of overestimating myself and underestimating Billie Jean King. I didn’t really think she had a chance.” Bobby Riggs died on October 25, 1995.

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