Bizarre Rivalry:
Bobby Riggs and Frank Kovacs

Tom LeCompte

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The press played up the rivalry between Riggs and Kovacs--but was it more serious than anyone realized?

After his devastating loss to Don McNeil in the 1940 Final at Forrest Hills, Bobby Riggs was determined to regain the title in 1941. But McNeil was not the only player or even the most challenging player standing in his way.

That was Frank Kovacs, the man the press called the Clown Prince, but who according to contemporaries, had a much darker side. (Click Here to read more about Kovacs game, personality, and gamesmanship.)

Dealing with Kovacs' dazzling shotmaking was one thing. Contending with his bizarre and even potentially criminal behavior was another.

How far would Kovacs go? If the accounts of witnesses can be believed, Kovacs drugged Bobby Riggs before a national final in hopes this would cause him to default.

Litany of Outrages

Everyone knew that, in general, if things were not exactly to Kovacs' liking, or perhaps even if they were, he was liable to simply walk off the court.

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Tom LeCompte is a freelance writer based in Boston. He is the author of the acclaimed biography: The Last Sure Thing: The Life and Times of Bobby Riggs.

The Last Sure Thing: The Life and Times of Bobby Riggs.

Bobby Riggs was a gifted champion who dominated tennis in both the amateur and pro ranks, winning 3 Grand Slam singles titles, and 3 U.S. professional titles. He was a life long opponent of the tennis establishment, a hustler who had an obsessive gambling proclivity and a troubled family history. His playing accomplishments were overshadowed by the hype surrounding his stunning straight set loss to Billie Jean King in the 1973 Battle of the Sexes. Read the real story of one of the great personalities in tennis history.

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