September 21, 2017

BOBBY RIGGS on the Tudor City Tennis Courts

Over the years, Tudor City's tennis courts were home to occasional exhibition matches featuring some of the biggest names in the game. Among them was Bobby Riggs, the World No. 1 player for three years in the 1940s. Below, Riggs pictured in Tudor City in 1949. Photo and caption from Tudor City View, the community magazine.

Bobby Riggs, Pancho Segura and Richard Gonzales ‒ who with Jack Kramer and Frank Parker ‒ constitute the world's foremost professional tennis players, pose on our Tudor City Courts for the benefit of a popular brand of cigarettes. Later, they treated residents to a spectacle of high class tennis. 
Chesterfields ad with Riggs, upper left corner.

We suspect the pros were smoking Chesterfields, which had Riggs under contract at the time.

Riggs abandoned professional tennis in 1951, becoming a promoter, but by the 1970s was back in the game as a shameless hustler and provocateur. His most notorious stunt was a big-payday match against Billie Jean King billed as "The Battle of the Sexes." King won in three sets, a victory that became something of a cultural touchstone for the burgeoning women's liberation movement.

The days of athletes endorsing cigarettes are long gone, as is Riggs, who passed away in 1995. But now he's resurfacing in the culture via a new movie, Battle of the Sexes, opening today. Based on his most famous match, the flick stars Steve Carell as Riggs, and Emma Stone as Billie Jean.

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