Bobby Riggs (February 25, 1918 – October 25, 1995)
Robert Larimore Riggs was born in Los Angeles. He began playing tennis at age 11 and quickly rose to the top of the Southern California tennis circuit. He won the U.S. Junior title in 1935 and claimed the U.S. Clay Court Championship in 1936. He was a Top 10 Amateur Player in 1937 and won his first Grand Slam final at the French Open in 1939. At Wimbledon, Riggs won the men’s singles, doubles and mixed-doubles tournaments. After winning the U.S. National Championships, Riggs was ranked #1 in the world. In 1940, he won the U.S. Championships again. Riggs went pro, after a stint serving in the U.S. Navy. He defeated Don Budge at the U.S. Pro Championships in 1946, 1947 and 1949. In the 50s, after his tennis career waned, he worked for the American Photograph Corporation. Riggs was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1967.
In 1973, he publicly lobbied to play the leading women’s tennis professionals. His first opponent was Margaret Court, the top ranked women’s player. Riggs defeated her. On September 20, 1973, Riggs took on 29-year-old tennis champion and advocate for women’s rights, Billie Jean King. At 55 years of age, Riggs was unable to keep up with the youngster. She easily won. This Battle of the Sexes match led Riggs to more fame and financial opportunities than he had ever seen even when he was a top player. He spent his later years working as a resident tennis pro for a Las Vegas hotel and enjoyed success on the men’s senior tennis tours. Riggs died of prostrate cancer on October 25, 1995 at age 77.