Link to Part I of this diary — “The Male is King, the Male is Supreme, and Women Should Know That." (Part I)
The Pre-Match Publicity and Hype
By the early 1970s, change had been in the air in American life for well over a decade. As the 1950s started to wind down and with early baby boomers entering their teenage years, cultural seeds were being sown that would later come to define the anti-establishment and counterculture 1960s. From rock music to comedy to movies to television to literature, a kind of restlessness and rebellion was bubbling up amongst the country's youth. Television beamed images of a country in turmoil. Stories about civil rights marches, antiwar demonstrations, political assassinations, student sit-ins and riots, and newly-found sexual freedom were all over the airwaves and in print publications.
It was an era of unprecedented activism and change.
Why did this match take place when it did in 1973? Earlier that year, the most important of women's rights issues — the ground-breaking Roe vs Wade case affirming a woman's right to an abortion — had been decided by the Supreme Court of the United States. The year before, both houses of Congress had passed the Equal Rights Amendment. It called for equal rights for both men and women and was gaining momentum on its way to state legislatures for ratification. Title IX had also been passed by Congress in 1972 and provided for equal opportunity in education and sports for everyone regardless of gender although few associated the law with women's sports at the time.
An unlikely promoter of this change was Cartoonist Charles M. Schulz. The Peanuts cartoon strip was seen by hundreds of millions of people around the world and provided Schulz with a platform few others had.
Charles Schulz brought his life-long passion for sports to Peanuts, and from the very beginning his girl characters participated in sports of all kinds. Schulz often used the theme of fairness in his comic strip and believed in giving everyone equal opportunity. Consequently, in Peanuts he created standout girl athletes, demonstrated that a girl could excel in one sport and not in another, and encouraged girls’ participation in sports as diverse as football and figure skating. Schulz became even more aware of the issue of equal opportunity for women in sports after meeting legendary sports icon Billie Jean King in the early 1970s and throwing his support behind the Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF). One of the WSF’s major goals was to ensure the implementation of Title IX. Signed into law in 1972, Title IX guaranteed equal access to both men and women in federally–funded educational programs and activities, including sports.
In 1979, at a particularly crucial time in the history of implementing Title IX, Schulz brought public attention to the issue by creating a multi-day storyline in Peanuts about the legislation and the status of girls and women in sports. But his efforts to promote women and sports did not end there; he continued to highlight the contribution of women athletes by featuring contemporary female sports stars in his comic strip and by hosting a senior women’s tennis tournament and a “mixed” golf tournament.
Leveling the Playing Field, a traveling exhibition from the Charles M. Schulz Museum & Research Center, commemorated the 40th anniversary of Title IX in 2012 and celebrated girls in sports as only Peanuts could.
In Peppermint Patty, Schulz found the perfect character from among the Peanuts gang to amplify his message of fairness and equality.
How Peanuts' Peppermint Patty became a fierce advocate for female athletes
While America debated the role of women in sports, the creator of Peanuts took a stand—and one of his iconic characters became an unapologetic voice for gender equality.
For 50 years, Peppermint Patty has been a cultural icon for women and girls trying to find their place in a sports world dominated by men. She’s fictional, of course, but she speaks about the reality of sexism in sports with fervor and eloquence. In popular culture, no other character has been so vocal about gender inequality on the field…
At first glance, Peppermint Patty might not resemble your idea of a crusader for women’s rights. Most obviously, she’s just a kid, like every other character in Peanuts—besides Snoopy, Woodstock and other non-humans—and kids don’t often crusade against structural inequalities of our society. This is the magic of Peanuts: Schulz’s characters simultaneously possess the wisdom of age and the innocence of youth. Perhaps the best example of this dichotomy is Linus opining on religion and philosophy while holding his “security blanket.”
Peppermint Patty, however, doesn’t like losing—and her tremendous ability backs up her competitiveness. This becomes clear soon after her debut, when she joins Charlie Brown’s baseball team. She’s determined to show “Chuck” how to win, but she quickly realizes the team is hopeless…
Peppermint Patty’s mere presence in the strip as a strong female athlete was powerful. Female athletes were breaking through in the real world, but the accessibility and relatability of Peanuts made the strip a powerful tool for helping to normalize the female athlete, to both male and female readers. Pop culture can challenge stereotypes about society in a unique way, and Peanuts succeeded in doing so.
Stanley Kay, “How Peanuts' Peppermint Patty became a fierce advocate for female athletes,” Sports Illustrated, August 19, 2016. The article points out that “From December 2011 to August 2012, the Charles Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, Calif., produced a special exhibition called “Leveling The Playing Field,” which celebrated 40 years of Title IX and honored Schulz's commitment to women’s sports. The Women’s Sports Foundation calculated in 2012 that female participation in college athletics had grown by a staggering 560% and female participation in high school athletics had skyrocketed by 990% since Title IX became law.” Billie Jean King is pictured above in a pre-match publicity photograph with Bobby Riggs. Photograph source: The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History (AP).
These issues favoring women's rights were being hotly debated by average people around the country in workplaces and in their homes — even as it attracted lots of detractors unhappy with these developments. However necessary the reasons for it, societal change is always resisted by some people. Weeks before it happened, just about every major news magazine and newspaper in the country would write extensive stories and speculate on the outcome. Among the major newspapers, only the Wall Street Journal picked King to win.
It was against this background that the King-Riggs match would take place.
Several weeks before the match, Riggs appeared on The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson to promote it. Carson was a tennis enthusiast and noted that at the time, Riggs might have been the most talked-about male athlete in the country, perhaps in the entire world. Carson referred to Riggs as a “combination of (actor) Mickey Rooney and (Olympic champion swimmer) Mark Spitz” and given his outrageously sexist statements, a “male chauvinistic pig.”
During the interview, Riggs — ever the con man and hustler — tried his best to denigrate women at every opportunity he could.
- “The male is king, the male is supreme, and women should know that.”
- “These girls can only play tennis with themselves and they can’t play with the men.”
- “I’m carrying the banner for men all over the world.”
Johnny Carson compared Bobby Riggs to actor Mickey Rooney as both were rather short in stature. Not unlike Olympic swimmer Mark Spitz, who won seven gold medals at the 1972 Munich Olympics when he was 22 years old, Riggs had won the triple crown at the 1939 Wimbledon Championships when he was 21 years old.
Riggs continued to make outrageously sexist statements (Ware, p. 4) to gin up interest in the match. Also, see this video on YouTube to get a sense of Riggs’ chauvinistic attitudes.
A few other examples from the self-proclaimed defender of male chauvinism were:
- "I plan to bomb Billie Jean King in the match and set back the Women's Lib Movement another 20 years."
- "The best way to handle women is to keep them pregnant and barefoot."
- "Women play about twenty-five percent as good as men, so they should get twenty-five percent of the money men [typically receive.]"
- “She is so aggressive. You know, we don’t like aggressive women. We like nice, sweet women who stay home and take care of the babies and help their husbands and are good cooks and great in the bedroom. That sort of thing.”
For the first few minutes of the below video, many leading tennis players make predictions on who they think will win the match. After the match, many (including several top female professional tennis players) realized how wrong they had been about Billie Jean King!
The stage was set for this historic Battle of The Sexes. Author Susan Ware described the prevailing social and political climate in a book written about this encounter.
On the evening of September 20, 1973, an estimated 48 million Americans tuned their television sets to an unlikely event: a tennis match between a twenty nine year-old, five-time Wimbledon champion at the top of her game and a fifty-five-year-old former tennis great long past his prime.
Many people at the time sensed that all the hoopla surrounding this $100,000, winner-take-all "Battle of the Sexes" between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs was more than just a tennis match, although nobody could really say why. Was it because the country of sick of Watergate, inflation, and the energy crisis and wanted a diversion? Was the match a referendum on the new — to many, troubling — social movement called women's liberation? Was the circus atmosphere an example of media hype gone awry? In fact, the contemporary and historical significance of the match derived from the congruence of all three — a "perfect storm," as it were, in the history of sports, entertainment, and modern feminism.
In 1973 Billie Jean King was the right feminist in the right sport at the right moment in American history. What she proved that night in a courageous performance of physical prowess and nerves of steel that women did not choke, women were not frail and weak, women could face pressure and take it — live, on national television, with no second takes.
Susan Ware, Game, Set, Match: Billie Jean King and the Revolution in Women's Sports (pp 1-2), 2011. Poster credit: Legendary Auctions.
“The Battle of the Sexes”: September 20, 1973, Houston, Texas
With a great deal at stake, Billie Jean King would not make the same mistakes that Margaret Court did. Unlike the previous match, this one would be played under rules for men's competition, i.e. it would be the best of a five-sets match rather than the standard best of three-sets format and one still in effect for women's tennis. King knew that this would be a test of endurance and trained rigorously for the match even as a cocky Bobby Riggs felt totally confident that he would easily dispatch her.
Opinion was split as to who would win. Contrary to the narrative in the media that men sided with Riggs and women with King, some did not know how it would turn out. A young Chris Evert expected Riggs to prevail, although years later she laughed about her youthful ignorance (Ware, p. 5). Gladys Heldman, the founder of the Women's Tennis Tour, asked, "What do we get if Billie Jean wins, 30 Senators?" Martina Navratilova would later say, "She was a crusader fighting a battle for all of us. She was carrying the flag; it was all right to be a jock."
King was focused on one and one thing only: defeating Bobby Riggs. She knew that she just had to win and played along with the silly antics (Collins, p. 2) employed by the event's promoters to garner publicity.
King was hoisted aloft as she entered the court like the Queen of Sheeba on a platform carried by wanna-be Egyptian slaves lacking shirts. Riggs arrived that night via rickshaw, pulled by page six of the Victoria's Secret catalogue. And he was wearing that famous "Sugar Daddy" jacket. link
The event was very silly. Riggs was a clown, playing to the crowd. And that was in many ways the most important point of all. The women’s liberation movement that had been fought out over the preceding decade had never been met by violent resistance, the way the civil rights movement had. It was met with ridicule, and if women wanted to win, they had to learn how to live with being laughed at, how to turn the tables and make their humiliators look like the butt of the joke.
King had to beat Riggs at tennis, but that would have been no victory at all if she failed to beat him at his own game, the battle of hype. She had to prove that women could stand up to people who made fun of them. Thus the extremely chintzy litter which a hesitant promoter brought out to King just a half hour before the big event, asking whether she might possibly want to use it to be carried onto the tennis court.
"God, that would be great," she said.
From the beginning, King satirized the moment as effectively as Riggs did.
Curry Kirkpatrick, "There She Is, Ms. America" - Sports Illustrated. Larry Schwartz, "Billie Jean Won for All Women" - ESPN. Photograph credit: International Tennis Hall of Fame.
The highly anticipated match had captured the country's imagination. Over 30,000 fans packed the Astrodome in Houston, Texas with tens of millions glued to their television sets in 37 countries. Sportscaster Howard Cosell provided commentary on ABC television. It was quite a spectacle.
The pressure was intense on King to perform well but she relished her underdog role. She'd said before the match that "Up until now, I've always been the heavy [favorite]. You know, I'm the leader. I'm responsible for women's tennis. For once, I'm the underdog. I love it." (Ware, p. 5) She was fully aware that a best of five-sets match played under men's rules would be a test of endurance. She deliberately prolonged the points in every game and ran Riggs ragged all over the court. Soon, Riggs was worn out and could not keep up with King's long drives from corner to corner. He tired quickly. King could sense that victory was in her grasp.
The day of the match dawned with all sorts of wonderful rumors: Larry and Billie Jean were getting a divorce. An Arabian sheik with a harem of 60 was flying in from Kuwait. Helen Reddy would sing at courtside. Sinatra was coming. Streisand was coming. Duke Wayne was coming.
That evening the reactions of the protagonist during their magnificently grotesque entrances foretold all. As Billie Jean rode above the multitudes, laughing and waving, she spotted actress Jo Ann Pflug going fairly berserk just below. "How do you like it?" shouted Pflug. "I love it," shrieked Billie Jean.
Minutes later, surrounded by all of Bobby's Bosom Buddies and half the cameras in the Western world, Riggs arrived. He was not laughing, not even smiling. "How's it going?" he muttered to nobody. "Where is she?" Bobby Riggs was actually tight, nervous, grim. He did not look like he loved it anymore.
Curry Kirkpatrick, "There She Is, Ms. America" - Sports Illustrated. Photograph credit: International Tennis Hall of Fame.
The match progressed pretty much as King had envisioned it. Her strategy had worked beautifully although there were several tense moments. She would win in three straight sets 6-4, 6-3, and 6-3.
See the below video for match highlights. Legendary journalist Linda Ellerbee discussed what happened on that historic day.
Riggs broke King's service three times, once in each set, but every time she broke back in the following game. King won the first set when Riggs double-faulted at set point. She served a love game to win the second. At 4-2 in the third, Riggs took an "injury break" for hand cramps: he gulped pills and water and tried to get wind or new legs or a Sugar Daddy. Something, anything. But it was all over.
On the third match point — with most of the women jumping up and down in glee, most of the men morose and silent, with the gift pig fast asleep beside the court — an eerie wail came from out of the crowd, "Close him out, Sissy. Close him out."
Billie Jean Moffitt King did. Sissy closed all the pigs out.
Curry Kirkpatrick, "There She Is, Ms. America" - Sports Illustrated. In the above must-see video - Our World Fall 1973 Part 2 - go to about the 0.50 minute mark and you will see commentary, pre-game quotes, and actual highlights of the King-Riggs match for the next 4+ minutes. It is also interspersed with King and Riggs reminiscing good-naturedly many years later about the confrontation.
After the match was over, a chagrined Bobby Riggs offered his congratulations to Billie Jean King. "I underestimated you," the winded Riggs said. (Collins, p. 2)
To summarize this historic achievement and its significance for women’s rights, author Susan Ware offers this glowing tribute to King.
In 1973 Billie Jean King was the right feminist in the right sport at the right moment in American history. What she proved that night in a courageous performance of physical prowess and nerves of steel was that women did not choke, women were not frail and weak, women could face pressure and take it — live, on national television, with no second takes.
In just under two hours, she forced a reexamination of what it meant to be female and an athlete, or as a New York Times editorial later put it, “In a single tennis match, Billie Jean King was able to do more for the cause of women than most feminists can achieve in a lifetime.”
As soccer coach April Heinrichs said in 1999, “When we look back in 20 years, I really think we are going to say that the Billie Jean King–Bobby Riggs tennis match, Title IX and the 1999 Women’s World Cup are the three largest pillars supporting women’s sports in this country.”
Ware, p. 2. Years later, when King was asked if her match against Bobby Riggs represented the biggest moment of her tennis career, she said that in terms of athletic significance, it wasn’t. However, in terms of the social impact her win had, she said, “Definitely, yes.”
After It Was All Over
In the decades that followed this tennis match, Billie Jean King would not hold any grudges against nor harbor any ill feelings towards Bobby Riggs for his chauvinistic behavior and belief in the inherent superiority of the male athlete. In fact, only a few weeks after their historic tennis match, both of them appeared in another confrontation — this time in table tennis — while guest-starring in an episode of the popular sitcom "The Odd Couple" (see video) on ABC television.
In an episode which aired on ABC on November 16, 1973, and appropriately titled "The Pig Who Came to Dinner," both Oscar (Jack Klugman) and Felix (Tony Randall) lose a bet to Riggs and then challenge him to a game of table tennis to win back their possessions. The “pig” in the episode title refers to Riggs as the self-styled male chauvinistic pig.
Of course, Billie Jean King rides to the rescue. You don’t have to guess the result of the match. Yes, King wins again!
A few quotes from the episode.
Oscar: He wanted to sign you up as a charter member of his new club.
Felix: What's that?
Oscar: Well, it's a new organization he's forming to celebrate his manhood. It's called the Male Chauvinists of America.
Bobby Riggs: Otherwise known as Riggs' Pigs.
Miriam: Just what are you trying to prove, Mr. Riggs?
Bobby Riggs: Simply this -- that any man can beat any woman at anything, anywhere, anytime.
Miriam: Just like your match with Billie Jean King?
Bobby Riggs: What match? I don't remember any match.
Oscar: No, he told me that was a fluke. Somebody hid his vitamin pills.
Oscar: (about Bobby Riggs) People mob him wherever he goes.
Miriam: That's right, Felix. I know some women's libbers who'd love to get their hands on him. Is he really like the public image he presents?
Oscar: How's that?
In the third season of The Odd Couple, Felix’s new girlfriend, Miriam Welby, was introduced and her character was played by actress Elinor Donahue. Quotation Source: tv.com.
After the win, King garnered endorsements from Adidas, Wilson tennis rackets, Colgate toothpaste, and Sunbeam hair curlers, making her one of the first female athlete superstars.
They would both go on to make several television commercials that mocked Riggs and his manly beliefs. Here are three such commercials — one for Sunbeam Curling Iron Ad, another for Coca-Cola, and a third for Atari.
The issue of unequal prize money for male and female tennis players would not be resolved for another 34 years. In 2007, the New York Times reported the following.
The All England Club, which organizes the Wimbledon tennis championships, said today that from now on it will offer women the same prize money as men. The chairman of the club, Tim Phillips called the decision "good for tennis, good for women players and good for Wimbledon" (and besides, the men-women differential had shrunk to near insignificance over the years anyway).
As the Associated Press noted this morning, Roger Federer received $1.170 million as last year’s men’s champion, while the women’s champion, Amelie Mauresmo received $1.117 million.
Wimbledon was the last holdout among the Grand Slam tennis tournaments in not awarding equal prize money to women across the board. The U.S. Open and Australian Open have paid equal prize money for years, and the French Open moved part-way to equality last year, making the prizes for the two singles champions the same.
"Serena Williams, Kim Clijsters exhibition recalls 1973's Battle of the Sexes," Tennis Now. Photograph credit: Tennis Now. Tom Zeller, Jr., "And Only 34 Years After Billie Jean King Beat Bobby Riggs!", February 22, 2007, New York Times. “Ginny” Sketch credit: Antique Tennis Collection For Sale.
King and Riggs would remain friends over the next few decades and maintain personal contact. When his health was failing due to prostate cancer in the mid-1990s, King wanted to visit Riggs but he did not want her to see him in a weak and frail condition.
The night before Riggs died, King called him and told him: "I love you."
She let Bobby know how much she appreciated him, how much his friendship had meant to her, how important he was to women, of all people. To Billie, he wasn’t a sexist in horn-rimmed frames anymore. To Billie, Bobby was her perect partner in making history.
Billie Jean King couldn’t have changed the world without him.
“Well, we did it, “ Bobby ended with a brief lift in his thin voice. “We really made a difference, didn’t we?”
Roberts, pp 251-52. Riggs’s change of heart only happened after numerous conversations with King over many years. She tried to convince him to look at the bigger picture and see their match as much, much more than just a tennis match. Riggs was forever grateful to her for teaching him that lesson. Indeed, their match had ushered in social change to a society desperately in need of it. Poster credit: Fine Art America.
Bobby Riggs died on October 25, 1995, in Encinitas, California. He was 77 years old.
An Inspiration for Women and LGBTQ Activists Everywhere
It's hard to think of another major athlete who did more to advance the cause of equality in sports for women than Billie Jean King. Her brilliance as a tennis champion gave her the moral authority for long-time social activism. Legendary Sportswriter, the late Frank Deford, even called King “the most significant athlete of this [the twentieth] century.”
That claim may well be debatable but the fact remains that King’s contributions certainly transcended the world of professional tennis and had a major impact on society.
Even the most cursory glance at the accolades awarded to Billie Jean King over the years demonstrates that this is a woman who deserves a prominent place in the pantheon of sporting greats.
In a tennis career spanning four decades, she amassed 39 Grand Slam titles, including 20 Wimbledon and 13 US Open crowns. Yet, her legacy transcends the sports world. ‘Very likely,’ mused venerated sportswriter Frank Deford in 1975, she ‘will go down in history as the most significant athlete of this century. That is not said lightly. But then few athletes ever reach beyond their games to exert any dominion over the rest of society.’
Indeed, a recent spate of tributes indicates the depth and breadth of her influence. Of the 100 Most Important Americans of the Twentieth Century, for instance, Life magazine included just four athletes: Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, and King.
In 2006, the United States Tennis Association rededicated its National Tennis facility as the Billie Jean King National Tennis Centre. Host to the US Open, the New York site is the largest and most eminent sports venue named for a woman. Three years later, President Obama decorated King with the Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor.
Jaime Schultz, “The Physical Activism of Billie Jean King,” Myths and Milestones in the History of Sport, pp 203-223.
King was denied many sponsorship opportunities after she was outed as a lesbian in May 1981 by Marilyn Bennett, her secretary, and lover, who had filed a palimony suit in a Los Angeles court. Her publicist advised her to deny everything but with her husband, Larry, at her side, King told the truth at a jam-packed press conference. In December that year, Judge Julius Title of the Superior Court in Los Angeles dismissed Bennett’s suit as a personal vendetta and called it “an attempt at extortion.” An event that cost King millions in endorsements, she continued to persevere and, finally, prevailed over her opponents in her long struggle to win recognition for women all over the world.
Given that she has always tried to separate her private life from her public persona, only a couple of weeks ago did King disclose a secret she had kept for three years in a new memoir, All In: An Autobiography. She revealed that she had, at the age of seventy-four, married her long-time companion and tennis doubles partner, Ilana Kloss, in a secret wedding ceremony in 2018. The late, former Mayor of New York City, David Dinkins (D-NY), performed the ceremony. King said that even as she felt ambivalent about the institution of marriage, formalizing this arrangement with Kloss was also about recognizing and honoring political activists who had fought hard for many decades to achieve marriage equality. Among her friends, singer Elton John and former tennis great John McEnroe had encouraged her to take this step.
You can listen to this radio interview that King recently gave on NPR's "Fresh Air."
The struggle for equality in the sports world goes on but few people would argue today that female athletes are inferior in any way to male athletes. While significant challenges remain, Billie Jean King can take solace in the fact that attitudes have changed dramatically over the past five decades, and in several instances, women’s sports are a bigger draw than events featuring men.
“My job in the match…was to change the hearts and minds of people to match the legislation of Title IX and what we were trying to do with the women’s movement. It was to validate it, to celebrate it, and to get going towards changing a world where we had equality for both genders.” Billie Jean King
When Billie Jean King trounced Bobby Riggs in tennis's "Battle of the Sexes" in 1973, she placed sports squarely at the center of a national debate about gender equity... King's challenge to sexism, the supportive climate of second-wave feminism, and the legislative clout of Title IX sparked a women's sports revolution in the 1970s that fundamentally reshaped American society.
While King did not single-handedly cause the revolution in women's sports, she quickly became one of its most enduring symbols, as did Title IX, a federal law that was initially passed in 1972 to attack sex discrimination in educational institutions but had its greatest impact by opening opportunities for women in sports. King's place in tennis history is secure, and now... she can take her rightful place as a key player in the history of feminism as well. By linking the stories of King and Title IX, Ware explains why women's sports took off in the 1970s and demonstrates how giving women a sporting chance has permanently changed American life on and off the playing field.
Book summary, Susan Ware, Game, Set, Match: Billie Jean King and the Revolution in Women's Sports, University of North Carolina Press, 2011. Read more of Billie Jean's accomplishments outside the world of tennis and the remaining hurdles in achieving equality. Sketch credit: Amazon Books.
In any democratic society, progress is often maddeningly frustrating and excruciatingly slow. And, yet, societies change, old biases fade away, new attitudes emerge, systems evolve, people adapt, and progress is made — almost never without a challenge for as I once mentioned in this comment — and using a quote from Frederick Douglass to describe a brilliant book with the same title, "Power concedes nothing."
The Donald Trumps of this world act as if they've never read history and frequently behave as if the country was frozen in time in the 1950s. Their testosterone-laden brains tell them that any rights that women have in this day and age were simply granted them at a substantial cost to men like him. But for most people, time does not stand still; if anything, it marches on.
This excellent video is part of David Hoffman’s six-part series, “Making Sense of the Sixties.”
In some respects, Trump's world is an autocratic Hobbesian world of a zero-sum game in which he is the sovereign. In his twisted mind, surely, his perceived losses have come at the expense of gains made by groups of people not deserving of such benefits. Hence, his condescending, boorish behavior often results in hostile comments being directed towards women and minorities.
What this purveyor of hate does not understand is that far from it, women like Billie Jean King had to forcefully confront entrenched male-dominated power structures to achieve some measure of equality. They have had to struggle mightily for decades at a great personal sacrifice to achieve progress and they have absolutely no intention whatsoever of conceding these precious rights.
A Note About the Diary Poll
Many years after he had retired from competitive play, I once met Rod Laver at a tennis club. Arguably the greatest male tennis player ever, he was filming a television commercial at the time. As a young kid, I had the thrill of my life when I hit a few tennis balls with him.
A perfect gentleman, Laver cared deeply about his sport and the people involved in it.
Remember to take the diary poll. Several other players, including Roy Emerson, Ken Rosewall, Stan Smith, Ilie Nastase, Guillermo Vilas, Mats Wilander, Jim Courier, Andy Roddick, and perhaps a few more could have as easily been listed on the poll.
Link to Part I of this diary — “The Male is King, the Male is Supreme, and Women Should Know That." (Part I)