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The Battle of the Sexes

  • Documentary
  • PG

Summary

The story of the infamous 1973 tennis match between retired men's champion Bobby Riggs and defending ladies' Wimbledon winner Billie Jean King.

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Review

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Though the focus of this illuminating documentary is the notorious 1973 clash between tennis champ Billie Jean King (then aged 29) and 55-year-old former Wimbledon winner and hustler Bobby Riggs, this is no mere chronicle of a sporting contest. King's involvement jeopardised her position as a spokesperson for the feminist cause, as well as her campaign to give women equal prize money and their own independent tour. Before King accepted the challenge, Riggs had already annihilated world number one Margaret Court earlier in the year, meaning there was a lot riding on a follow-up confrontation set to attract a global audience of 100 million. Incredible as it may seem, sexism - in the shape of Riggs's clown prince of chauvinism - was not as ridiculous and out of place then as it would be now. Women's rights in the 70s was as provocative and emotive an issue in the US as civil rights had been the decade before, and this compendium of revealing archive footage, talking heads and (frankly unnecessary) reconstructions demonstrates the significance of the match. As documentaries go, this may not be as ground-breaking as Senna or Man on Wire, but it remains a vital record of a symbolic event for gender equality in sport and, indeed, society in general.

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