Billie Jean King’s racket to sell on December 6

Billie Jean King’s tennis racket from her 1973 "Battle of the Sexes" match against Bobby Riggs will auction on December 6.

The lot will provide the highlight of Bonhams’ annual Voices of the 20th Century sale. It’s one of two rackets King used in the contest. 

Battle Sexes racket

This is one of two rackets Billie Jean King used in her match against Bobby Riggs 

Bobby Riggs was one of the best tennis players of his generation. He’d held the world number one spot for a number of years in the late 1930s and 1940s.

A lifelong hustler (and dyed in the wool chauvinist), he figured he could make a decent sum of money from showing up women as inferior players.

His first challenger, in May 1973, was women's number one Margaret Court. While Court was probably the better player at the time, Riggs studied her game carefully and worked out a strategy to keep her off balance. He won.

Billie Jean King took him on that September.

She played Riggs at his own game. The result was a decisive victory for King that left Riggs near inconsolable.

The matches were played against the backdrop of a wider conversation about the rights of women in society.

The year before, Shirley Chisholm had become the first woman to run for president while the landmark Roe vs Wade ruling on abortion had passed in January 1973.

The sale will follow the upcoming release of a major film dramatisation of the match (titled The Battle of the Sexes) starring Steve Carrell and Emma Stone.

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