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Bobby Riggs: Clown or Champion?

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  • Bobby Riggs: Clown or Champion?

    Let's discuss Tom LeCompte's article, "Bobby Riggs: Clown or Champion?"

  • #2
    Clown or Champion?
    How about both?

    Bobby Riggs as a player was no slouch. He bet on himself to win the triple at Wimbledon and 1939. Singles, Doubles and Mixed. And he did. That takes some serious belief, confidence, gumption and keen skill. Bobby Riggs was many things. Normal and soft spoken were not some of those qualities however.

    So many legendary stories of Riggs. He played, he won. He hustled, he won. He made an impact, he will be remembered.

    Kyle LaCroix USPTA
    Boca Raton


    • #3
      No clown but a great player

      I got to know Bobby in the 70's and guarantee you he was no clown. He was a tennis genius with the ability to figure out the best way to play anybody quickly. He loved life and loved the action of playing for something. When he played he thought several shots ahead. I believe Kramer said it was either 5 or 7. In the book Bobby wrote, his chapter on Airtight Tennis should be required reading for everyone serious about the game. If you talked to the guys of his era and just after that knew Bobby well, you would see he would be regarded as a true tennis genius. When he got serious and talked inside tennis it was special.

      As for his talent, Bobby had the best hands I have ever seen. I saw him hitting with a Pepperdine player on cement. Bobby from just behind the baseline, while they were rallying, called to the player. "Let me see you get this one". He then proceeded to hit a drop shot which bounced on the Pepperdine boys side and came back over the net to Bobby's side. On cement, from that far back, against a good college player, and calling it to do that....that is special!!!

      I saw him playing doubles with a Vegas teaching pro against Jimmy Connors (who was in his prime) and a player that had made the US Open. They were playing for $100 a set. Jimmy's team gave them a 2-0 lead, could only hit 2nd serves and got $20 each time they could hit Riggs with the ball. They hit him twice. Connors went after him. Riggs lost the set in a Tie breaker. But the thing that was amazing was that Riggs at 60 years old with his still great hands, in the tiebreaker, was controlling the points by closing the net, moving to the center of the court and volleying well off of Connors best shots. And they were all playing hard.

      Bobby was fun and exciting to be with. His mind was always active and figuring the "why" of things. He may be one of the top 20 players of all time.


      • #4

        Great post! Thank you. Thank you for adding to the legend.

        Kyle LaCroix USPTA
        Boca Raton


        • #5

          agreed a great post. and it's too bad that so much around that King match made him appear a clown... this series I am undertaking to maybe redress that balance in a small way...


          • #6
            Yes, but how about the Margaret Court match? That was a great match.

            It was known as the Mother's Day Massacre....


            And, hustler he was, there was a rumor he bet against himself in the King match. Probably not true, but with Bobby, who knows?
            Last edited by gzhpcu; 07-08-2016, 11:00 PM.


            • #7
              Another entertaining book, is Riggs's autobiography, "Court Hustler"...


              • #8
                Bobby Riggs vs. Don Budge...1942

                He wasn't always playing against women...when he was just clowning around.
                Performance Analyst


                • #9
                  The other rumor was that he tanked the King match because Billy Jean promised him a rematch--where he did plan to beat the house on himself--but Billie Jean turned out to be too smart.


                  • #10
                    answere to rumor

                    If you remember that match you will remember 2 things that are of significance to the thought of Riggs throwing the match: one is that Riggs started serving and volleying which was not his game especially at that point in life 2. they said Riggs legs looked wobbly.
                    Here is as I understand it, why Riggs had to force the shorter points, why he played poorly, and why he did not dismantle King. First Riggs did not take King seriously enough. He destroyed Margret Court and she was a superior player to King. So Riggs did not train as much for the match. He came in with a sore arm so on game day he took some pain killers which he found made him groggy. You will also remember that at that day and age it was common for pro athletes to take greenies (uppers) to get a surge in energy. Riggs took some of them to try to counter the pain killers and the end result was that his body was being torn 2 different ways with the result that it took away his legs.
                    Riggs thought he would easily defeat her in a rematch. but King blackballed Riggs from playing anymore ladies or herself as she was afraid that she would lose political ground if she or they lost. Riggs just wanted to play and enjoyed the pre match banter. It was action, excitement and fun for him. He was upset that after he made Billie Jean so much money she black listed him.


                    • #11
                      I had occasion a number of years ago to talk about the Riggs-King match with someone who was very much in Riggs' very inner circle. He told me what happened was that Riggs was taking greenies in addition to all of those vitamins he talked about. He said that Riggs thought "hey, if taking more vitamins is better, I will do the same with the greenies" and he took far too many for the match with the consequent bad effect on his body. So that is close to what kenh said in his post above. We will never know for sure what the real story is but this may well be at least a partial explanation of why is lost so badly.

                      As for whether Riggs' was a clown or champion, I think the answer is obvious - a champion tennis player who was one of the greats in the pre-Open era. He may have been a gambler and had other attributes that did not appeal to some, but nothing can take away from the fact that he was a great, great player and an incredible competitor.


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