Living Legend Billie Jean King sprung into history by beating Bobby Riggs in 1973’s “Battle of the Sexes” showdown, though she’s not so sure that pitting the best female player in the world against a washed-up male athlete would be that interesting now.
“Everyone has been trying to get John McEnroe to play Serena (Williams) for probably 25 years,” King told us at the Logo Third Annual “Trailblazer Honors” at The Cathedral of St. John the Divine. “I think he wants to. I think she probably doesn’t.”
King confessed that she isn’t sure who would win that match, but overall, thinks it’s a losing proposition for Williams, who at 34, is 23 years younger than McEnroe.
“She’s not playing as well as she usually does,” said King. “Some nights you have a bad day at the office. That’s only one match — one day in your whole life — and everyone is focusing on it. And that’s it. That’s the way people remember you.”
King said that matchup also presents a no-win proposition for women overall.
Serena Williams shouldn’t play John McEnroe, according to King.
(Andy Kropa/Andy Kropa/Invision/AP)
“I don’t know if it really helps women so much,” she said. “So we beat an older guy. Whoopie.”
King won her nationally televised match against Riggs in straight sets in front of 37 million viewers and took home $100,000 in doing so. King was 29 at the time, and at the top of her game. Riggs, a top-ranked player in his day, was 55 and well past his prime.
King, now 72, is looking forward to seeing actress Emma Stone playing her in a film about the history-making match, which will hit theaters in 2017. But she doesn’t expect Stone compete at the U.S. Open.
“She’s a great athlete,” King told us of her 27-year-old protégé. “Every actor has their coach and their body double. Everybody does that in movies.”
With Jeffrey Slonim