Category Archives: Tennis History

Woods vs. Federer: Who’s the Best?

This morning on ESPN Radio, a commentator gave the following reason why Tiger Woods is better than Roger Federer: Roger only has to beat six players to win a major, Tiger has to beat the entire field.


First of all, it’s seven players not six. Roger has to beat seven players to win a major. Second, Tiger has to beat the course and one bad day doesn’t knock him out of a tournament.

Tiger plays one tournament a year with head-to-head matchups. He’s entered it eight times and won it twice. I’m sure Roger reminds him of that very thing in their ongoing text-messaging smackdowns.

I cannot say who is better, Tiger or Roger. I’m just happy to live through the beginning and middle of their careers and hopefully I’ll live through the end of them too.

I will say that Tiger is mentally stronger. Roger isn’t even the best in his sport in that category. Rafael Nadal is the player who can gut out the five hour marathons. Roger hasn’t needed it up until now because he usually wins so easily. Nadal is the only one who’s extended him to five sets in a major final.

On the other hand, as far as movement and athleticism goes, Roger is the Nijinsky of tennis. Tiger gets to stand still while he plays his sport.

I’ll also say this about Tiger and Roger as the greatest of all time (G.O.A.T.) in their respective sports. Some people wonder why we waste so much time arguing about G.O.A.T.s but I think players deserve it because that’s the main thing that drives them. Why else spend your life trying to pass Jack Nicklaus’ record for majors (18) or Pete Sampras’ record for majors (14).

Tiger is easy. If he wins more than 18 majors he’s in (he currently has 13).

If Roger wins 14 majors (he currently has 12) he’s better than Sampras because he got to the final of the French Open at least twice and Sampras did not . No matter how many majors he wins, he still has to share the podium with Rod Laver who has two calendar grand slams (all four majors in the same year).

If Roger wins 14 or more majors and one of them is the French Open, however, he stands alone and that’s even if he doesn’t go through Nadal to win it. Andre Agassi has a career slam (all four majors though not in the same year) but he needed a few rain delays and the timely onset of cramps in his opponent to win his only French Open Title. It takes a bit of luck.

I’d put Roger past Laver with only a career slam and 14 or more majors because Laver’s grand slams were played on only two surfaces: grass and clay. The Australian and the US Open switched to hard courts later.

Many people think Roger’s superiority is bad for tennis because it’s boring to know the outcome of a major before it starts. Maybe, but he’s so good that his name regularly appears on sports shows whether Tiger is in the conversation or not, and that’s a good thing because tennis will keep slipping in the ratings without that exposure.

The best writers also gush over his game resulting in such prose as this op-ed from the New York Times and these pieces from the New Yorker.

Our reader Gabs drops by and trashes us for fawning over Federer whenever we write anything positive about him but we’d have to be pretty cynical to deny the obvious.

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Serena’s Mouth, Federer’s Brilliance, and Boris Becker’s Tongue

Join us for the men’s U.S. Open final! We’ll be blogging live on Sunday, September 9th at 4pm EST

Serena’s Mouth

Tennis players have different ways of dealing with a tough loss in the post-match media session that is required attendance. Andy Roddick has had a meltdown now and then. Roger Federer is as cool as a cucumber. Always. And Nikolay Davydenko might call your question stupid.

Serena Williams is known for being ungracious to her opponent. She seldom gives her opponent credit for winning the match. Rather, she’ll say that she played poorly and, more so, the outcome was totally under her control.

Take this exchange after Serena lost to Justine Henin, 7-6, 6-1, in the quarterfinals at the US Open:

Q. Are you saying that you lost the match rather than Justine won it?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I think that’s usually the case with me, that it’s for me to win or lose.

And this:

Q. You fought pretty hard to get back into the first set. She played a good tiebreak. Second set, your level seemed to drop.
SERENA WILLIAMS: No, I just think she played better. I just think she made a lot of lucky shots, and I made a lot of errors. I don’t think my level dropped.

Serena’s demeanor belied her comments. When someone asked her if she was devastated by the loss, she denied it, but she was snarky from beginning to end. She said she wouldn’t have done the media session but she didn’t want to pay the fine and twice she asked, “Any more questions?” clearly hoping the answer was no.

The match also belied her comments. Henin was crushing the ball and beating Serena at her own game. By the end of the media session, Serena conceded as much. When someone asked her if she’d go back and look at a tape of the match to figure out what happened she said:

Yeah, I got to go back and study and figure out how to beat her. That’s it. Bottom line.

Federer and Serena go about it in different ways but both are loathe to betray the slightest chink in their armor. Federer will dismiss a tough loss as insignificant and Serena will dismiss her opposition much as she does in her Compaq commercial where she picks up an opponent and tosses her aside with an air of dismissal.

In the case of Serena, this kind of behavior comes with the territory. She will not be denied and that’s why she can turn up at the Australian Open after missing six months of tennis and blow the field away. We want her to feel indomitable because that’s what champions are made of.

But Henin knocked her out of the three remaining slams this year. True, Serena was playing with an injured thumb in the Wimbledon loss, but the veneer of domination could be undone by denial if she doesn’t take Henin as a serious opponent.

And that means admitting that Henin outplayed her.

Federer’s Brilliance

Here’s all you need to know about the quarterfinal match between Roddick and Federer. The score was 2-2 in the second set and Federer had game point on his serve.

Roddick hit a return so hard that Federer barely got his racket on it. Roddick hit another rocket to the baseline and Federer had to short-hop that ball too. By this time Roddick was at the net and hit a crisp volley to the other side of the court that also landed near the baseline. One more Roddick volley to the opposite corner and Federer had to put up a desperation lob that landed so deep that Roddick had to hit the ball between his legs. It didn’t work.

Roddick had hit four balls that should have won the point and yet he here he was, trying to save the point with a trick shot.

Okay, let’s throw in a few more things.

In the first set tiebreaker, Roddick was serving at 4-5 when he hit a forehand approach that kicked up high off the baseline. Federer calmly flicked a passing shot cross court and out of Roddick’s reach. In the second set tiebreaker, Roddick was serving at 4-4 when he hit a 140 mph(225 km/h) serve. Federer blocked it back with a half swing and the ball landed on the back of baseline. Roddick was so surprised that all he could do was flail at it.

Roddick was bringing it, I mean he was slamming balls and playing the game of his life. But he had no chance. Power met finesse and was eaten up by it.

All that running around and slamming caught up with Roddick in the third set. He faced his first break points serving at 2-3 and lost his serve. He didn’t win another game as Federer won the match, 7-6(5), 7-6(4), 6-2.

After the match Roddick said:

I’m not walking off with any questions in my head this time. I’m not walking with my head down. I played my ass off out there tonight. I played the right way.

He did play his ass off and on another night, it might have worked. At the very least, I won’t automatically assume Federer wins next time they meet up. With Roddick’s record against Federer currently sitting at 1-14, that’s progress.

Boris Becker’s Tongue

Andre Agassi sat in the commentary booth with John McEnroe and Ted Robinson during the match between Roddick and Federer. USA should hire Andre immediately. His commentary was as intelligent as I’ve heard at a tennis match.

He covered details about positioning and strategy you expect from a former top player – but don’t always hear – and it told you why you saw so many fantastic matches from him. He misses absolutely nothing.

Check this out for instance. He figured out that Boris Becker tipped off his serve with his tongue. That’s right, his tongue. If his tongue was in the middle of his mouth, his serve was going down the middle. If his tongue was over to the side, he was going wide.

We know McEnroe didn’t pick up on the tongue because he thought Agassi was joking. Maybe that’s why McEnroe was 2-8 against Becker and Agassi was 10-4.

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You can read about the match between Serena and Justine here

2006 U.S. Open: the end of a legend

how many five setters have finished with a tiebreak? Safin-Haas,

John McEnroe and Patrick McEnroes in the booth together on CBS. They’re even better together than separately and they’re the best even when they’re not together.

If I’d been Andre Agassi I would have withheld permission for James Blake to wear that retro outfit. Nothing is worse than looking at a picture of yourself a decade earlier. It’s not just the clothes, it’s that hair. Luckily Blake put on a do rag instead of a hairpiece. And that’s all I’m going to say about Agassi because, really, hasn’t there been enough?

Jim Courier and John McEnroe hitting in between commentating jobs(yuck). Okay, no big deal, but Jimmy Connors (with his new hip) and John McEnroe hitting, that was something to see.

Federer’s between the legs shot facing the net. When my regular playing buddy Abdul does it, he’s being lazy, when Federer does it, it makes the ESPN Top Ten list.

Speaking of Connors, how about that rain-delay replay of a point in his 1991 match against Paul Haarhuis where Connors returned four straight overheads and finished off the point with a clean passing shot. Tends to make you forget that this was the same tournament where Connors called chair umpire David Littlefield a son of a bitch and an abortion among other things.

The outbreak of competitive dancing during the James Blake-Carlos Moya match. The winner was a guy in a pastel jacket who must have been in his 60’s showing a mix of moves that were popular during the [link]Ratpack’s(capitalized? heyday(sp?). For a minute there I thought I was at a Laker’s basketball game where everyone `. Speaking of Blake, he made yet another weaker player look like a giant. Moya has his lowest ranking in six years but there he was going toe to with Blake before Blake finally put him away in four sets. Very similar to Wimbledon where Blake made Max Mirnyi look like a giant killer. I’m worried about that boy.

[put Baghdatis first then mention Haas]Medical timeout abuse # 3,654: Tommy Haas preparing to serve to stay in the match at 7-6, 6-4, 3-6,3-6, 5-6, called a medical timeout because he was having trouble breathing. The doctor came over and poked around his chest to evaluate Haas then, after the poking which already took a few minutes, Haas got a full three minute(?) medical time out. After such (another word pertaining to breathing) distress, Haas proceeded to win his service game easily then take the tiebreaker, and the match, 7-1. Do you think these players study anatomical texts to come up with plausible medical problems for bogus timeouts?

Marcos Baghdatis took a medican timeout in his match with Andre Agassi for a thigh muscle straing. Later in the match he got a medical timeout for cramps in that very same thigh. So that’s how you do it, you say it’s a strain to get the cramp massaged then, if it returns, you get a timout for cramps. That’s how you get two medical timeouts for the same problem despite the rule that limits you to one. And what’s up with Richard Gasquet, clearly two medical timeouts for cramps in his legs – thighs first and calves second, how does that work?

Shot of the tournament: I admit it, I get tired of the “heroic” label for players soldiering on with cramps, they’re not heroic, they’re out of shape. Still, Richard Gasquet was down match in the fifth set to Lleyton Hewitt (what is he doing here in the fourth round, he has tendonitis in his knee doesn’t he?) and his right thigh was absolutely locking up, you could see the muscle bulge but Hewitt hit a shot to the corner then came in after the ball and Gasquet was able to hobble over there and hit a dipping passing shot through the two inch window that Hewitt left him. The crowd was already screaming, now they were beside themselves, standing and yelling. The cramps didn’t subside, though, and Hewitt served it out a few shots later. I’m beginning to think that Gasquet is a drama queen. He is regular five-setter, he had two epic five-setters against Russia in Davis Cup for instance, losing them both. He might want to have a conversation with a sports psychologist, something about feeling comfortable with willing. He is one of the sweetest guys out there, he always pats his opponent on the back and has something nice to say to them at the end of the match no matter what happened. Maybe he should take Jimmy Connors on part-time, the opponent is your enemy, Richard, go it?

Conclusion of conclusion: there were pips and squeaks from foreign players, in particular a slightly sarcastic comment from Roger Federer hoping he qualified for a night match some time, but hopefully it’s a swan song of the extreme U.S. centric nature of the U.S. Open. What do I suggest then? Well, pump up Sharapova on the screen, not just commercials, feature Nadal – I didn’t see anything about him in between his matches… Also, put the foreign players against U.S. players – if you can find them – and use that p.r. skill to connect them with the things the U.S. likes, a showman…., in conclusion, [put this at the end] entertainment.

It’s like those Geico commercials, not the gecko with the working class British accent but the one where celebrities channel day-to-day people to spice up their story and things more dramatic. It’s brilliant if you think about it. Little Richard manages to “whooooohoooooing” mash potatoes and cranberry sauce for a woman who hit a deer on Thanksgiving day and the latin singer(???) Charo in a red sparkly dress with arm-length gloves and thumbholes(aichhhh, what do you call those) manages to make a song and dance and… out of Stanley Smith’s wrecked car.

Just think what a celebrity could do for Roger Federer. Maybe he needs a celebrity channeler so the U.S. would embrace him. Let’s see, who would be appropriate. George Lopez? Nah. I got it, T.O., Terrell Owens. Love him or not, we want press and T.O. could squat along the sideline then, when Federer hits his next front-facing between the legs shot, T.O. could run over to the other side of the court, pick up the ball then kneel down on Federer’s opponent’s side of the court. You want media coverage, you’d get it in spades.

Or maybe celebrity coaches. Bobby Knight could be Andy Murray’s celebrity coach for his next semifinal slam match. Knight would have no problem getting a word in edgewise against Brad Gilbert. Knight could just slam him to the ground and break his collarbone. I don’t know if this was the exact same technique he used but Knight did manage to break his son Patrick’s collarbone.

If Andre Agassi can be wildy popular worldwide, why can’t Federer or Baghdatis be popular here. [put into the U.S. Open conclusion.

Don’t laugh, they do this in other sports don’t they? They put microphones on football players and coaches, ….

I’ll tell’ya something too, the crowd was going crazy during the Gasquet-Hewitt match, a Frenchie and an Aussie. They gave Gasquet a standing O as he faced his first match point. Gasquet jumped in the air, hit a backhand down the line for a winner, then threw his racket on the ground and grabbed his thigh and hobbled across the court trying to unlock his cramping muscles.

And here’s another reality show, Murray Mutters, a comedy consisting of Andy Murray’s comments during matches. Affix a mic to him then follow him around. During his match with Nikolay Davydenko (did he win) he hit a ball into the net then had the following monologue: “It makes you nervous when you don’t try hitting the ball so hard, it makes you so nervous, focusing on not making errors, you’re so tight every time the ball comes to you.” Notice his use of the third person as if he’s outside his body.

Reader Matt’s comments about the women: “My wife and I have been watching the Open in France. We are astonished at the badness of the opening matches on the women’s side of the draw. After a while we began to keep count of the ratio of points won to points lost, and this is what it looks like. In last evening’s match between Serena and Mauresmo, the ratio of points won to those lost on unforced errors was about 1 to 9. In the last Kirilenko match it was closer to 1 to 12. In the Rezai match also 1 to 11. The time was when women like Chris Evert, Martina Navritilova, Monica Seles, and Steffi Graf played tennis as immaculate, as consistent, as nearly error-free as that of the very best male players, but in the last few years the falling off in the quality of women’s play below the very highest level of the game (represented by Sharapova, Clisters (when she is healthy), Henin-Hardenne, and sometimes, though not always, Mauresmo, is very discouraging. I can only wonder what Chris Evert would have found to say of the many matches that were decided not by who played best but by who played worst. I find this a very discouraging development, and wonder what other people have to say on the subject.”

Billie Jean we love you

You know how some times you work too hard and you lose your inspiration, your creative well runs dry? It could be too much time figuring out how to install a wireless router so you can use your laptop in the dining room or too many hours looking up the head-to-head records of obscure players in the US Open draw who’ve never played each other any way or too many phone calls to customer support to find out why they never received the receipt that shows you really did pay your property taxes even if it was a few months late. When your inspiration is low and nothing comes out when you sit down to write, it’s time to go out on the town.

McEnroe said it: “…she is the single most important person in the history of women’s sports.”

I started out Saturday night at a parking lot party for the Carmada (as in armada) Project. It was a caravan of driving art modules in a cold storage facility in downtown Los Angeles. In addition to a Saab that looked like an orange orb with stage smoke spilling out of its windows and a pickup truck with a cactus garden in its bed, there was a woman sitting on a fifty foot long path of sewed together quilts making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Sunday night I went to Sunset Junction in Silver Lake. It’s not your usual street fair, most street fairs consist of food booths selling food you could easily buy without going to a street fair, but Sunset Junction focuses on music. As soon as I stepped into the gate I stood in a crowd listening to Dave Alvin and the Guilty Men whose name suggests what they are, a blues band. Alvin is the singer and the lead guitarist and he’s just knock-down good at what he’s been doing for many years, the singing and the playing and the stories just flow from this guy.

After that I wandered to the other end of the fair and hooked up with my friends known to me as the “girl gang” to see Nona Hendrix. You can see a picture of her here. I love you Nona! She used to wear space age costumes and lounge around the stage with Patti LaBelle and the Blue Belles. She had the whole street jumping and we were all trying to move our hips like her sexy backup singers. I always feel out of place at the Junction because I’m too squeamish to get a tattoo and there was a woman next to me with seven or eight inch dark red nails curled around her fingers. Not my thing but I loved the crowd and the show and, best of all, I was re-inspired. My little writing notebook was starting to fill up again.

But the best was yet to come. Monday night was opening night at the U.S. Open and I had a front row seat to a huge television variety show featuring every tennis player who ever mattered to me including Jimmy Connors, God love him, with a handshake and kiss for everyone. Connors and John McEnroe were kidding with each other and Chris Evert, Venus Williams, and Martina Navratilova were in the house. Most of all, so was my choice as the number tennis player of all time, Billie Jean King.

Yes, it has finally happened, the USTA National Tennis Center is now officially called the Billie Jean National Tennis Center and every one was there to celebrate. I’m not sure why Billie Jean didn’t ask Elton John instead of Diana Ross, who sang God Bless America, to come to the ceremony. I remember Billie Jean spending some time waggling her bum as a backup singer with Elton’s band. On the other hand, I can’t quite see Elton John singing God Bless America. It’s not quite like Jimmy Hendryx singing the Star Spangled Banner but it’s close.

I had a wonderful time and I’m telling you, I was in tears as Billie Jean walked out onto the court. I stood up and gave her a standing ovation in my little office here in Los Angeles. McEnroe said it: “…she is the single most important person in the history of women’s sports.”

I never burned my bra but that’s because I never needed to wear one. But, even though my boyfriend at the time had season tickets in the front row along the third base line at Fenway Park, I missed the sixth game of the 1975 World Series – the one where Carlton Fisk hit a twelfth inning home run for the Red Sox to send the series with the Cincinnati Reds to a seventh game – so I could go to a meeting of the Massachusetts Feminist Federal Credit Union. That should demonstrate my feminist credentials. Billie Jean was one of our leaders. She took tons of crap as a public symbol of the feminist movement for beating the male chauvinist piggy Bobby Riggs and breaking away from the tennis establishment to create a separate women’s tennis tour.

But we weren’t just there to see Billie Jean King. It was also the first match in Andre Agassi’s last run at the US Open. What else can be said, sports is entertainment and no one was more entertaining than Andre Agassi. Agassi played Andrei Pavel after the ceremony.

It is also Martina Navratilova’s last run at the U.S. Open.

And, possibly, Lindsay Davenport’s last run. That’s sad because Lindsay just dropped out of the top ten which must be the first time since Billie Jean King and Gladys Heldman started the women’s tour in 1970 that no U.S. woman is in the top ten. But then, really, it just means that Billie Jean’s influence has spread out so far that women everywhere play the game. In the U.S. Open draw there are nine women from Russia, two from China, one from Taiwan, one from Serbia-Montenegro, one from Austria, nine from France… anyway, you get the picture.

As the ceremony ended and a plaque for Billie Jean was unveiled by the mayor of New York, Aretha Franklin was there in voice only singing “all I’m asking is for a little respect when you come home, yeah baby, when you get home. R-E-S-P-E-C-T… ” Billie Jean did a high-five circuit of the stadium and it was time for some tennis.

As Andre walked out to start his match, a fan held up a sign that said “Andre’s House.” True, tonight it is, but it is now, and will always be, Billie Jean’s house too.

See also:
Billie Jean Gets What She Deserves
Los Angeles Says Goodbye to Andre.

Billie Jean – the best tennis player of all time

Billie Jean King: Portrait of a Pioneer

Put rebroadcast schedule in here.

The question is: is what you do more important than who you are? A related question: is it more important seek active social change in the world or can you be just as effective if you choose to be a secluded monk in the Greek countryside? The answer to the second question is easier. If your personality is best suited to being a cloistered monk, you’d probably make a terrible social activist. You are most effective if you choose the path that suits your soul. And many a burnout comes from the pursuit of activism out of a sense of duty rather than conviction.

The thing is, Billie Jean could have had it both ways. She had influenced huge social change and she then had a chance to square her personal life, her sexual preference, with her social activism. She chose to go, no jump back into the closet. It may well have been because she wanted to continue her social activism but I think she also didn’t want to give up her celebrity.

Make no mistake about it, the Battle of the Sexes, Billie Jean’s tennis match with Bobby Riggs, was spectacle at its finest. It’s hard to forget the site of Billie Jean entering the match on a (??? how best to describe it) and giving Riggs, the quintessential public representative of macho, a baby pig. Billie Jean was a star. She’s made it all the way from a working class Long Beach to center stage and did not want to give that up.

You could say that Billie Jean chose celebrity and fame at the price of leading a lie in her personals life. The argument for that is that she affected a lot of people’s lives positively while being cruel to her husband, who is only one person.

The Bobby Riggs match was spectacle, and we like spectacle. We celebrate celebrities – people who make spectacle and are famous for one thing or another. We don’t celebrate a mand or a woman who pay their bills, have a good relationship with their family and lead an uneventful life.

It could be similar to being the child of a famous figure who is renowned in the world but might be a terribly family person. I’m sure we could find a number of celebrities who would fit that mold. I am the daughter of a famous person and I have immensely mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, the fact that he was a consummate artist has inspired me greatly, on the other, he did not come and claim me but left me to be a foster child and then adopted by another family. He always provided financial support but it’s hard not to think that celebrity informed his choice, may have made it harder to be seen as having a daughter out of wedlock. (write a note to J. Druck about this – e.g., about being in la with a feed, “I’m so naive, aren’t I?”)

There are two intesting things in the HBO documentary titled Billie Jean King, Portrait of a Pioneer. Let’s start with the camera.

You might have noticed that Billie Jean looks straight at the camera as she speaks. If you didn’t, at least you experienced a feeling of intimacy missing in most documentaries. That’s because the producer, Margaret Grossi, used the interrotron, a technique developed by the brilliant filmmaker Errol Morris, to interview her subjects. Instead of looking off to the side of the camera at her interviewer, in this case Mary Carillo, Billie Jean looked at an image of Carillo’s face on a camera in front of her while Carillo was in another room.

With Billie Jean looking directly at you, it feels like she’s sitting down and having a conversation with you, the lowly, anonymous viewer. It’s kind of thrilling, I have to say.

Billie Jean has spoken about her life before but this is the first time she and her partner, Ilana Koss, have been willing to discuss their life together publicly. Billie Jean was ready to discuss the uncomfortable parts of her life, but sitting in a room by herself and looking at a camera instead of sitting a few feet away from a live person whose emotional and physical reactions might have inhibited her, made it that much easier. In a New York Times interview, Carillo said that she was visibly moved by Billie Jean’s revelations. You see the same thing in Morris’ films Mr. Death and The Fog of War. The subjects of those documentaries, Fred Leuchter and Robert McNamara, seem to be having a long coversation with themselves, the most intimate convesation there is, and you just happen to be watching.

The other interesting part of the documentary is the nature of the relationship between Billie Jean and her then husband Larry King as it played out against the social upheaval of the sixties and seventies. They married in 1965 while they were still in college but by the end of the sixties, Billie Jean knew that she was attracted to women.

The fifties and sixties were a phenomenally active time for social change. In 1963 alone, James Meredith was the first black student to enroll at the University of Mississippi, Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, the first salvo in the current environmental movement, and Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique, credited with starting the feminist movement.

Billie Jean had a strong sense of social inequality as a young girl and it must have energized her immensely to see footage of marches and demonstrations and hear speeches from such leaders such as Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy and Gloria Steinem. Further complicating matters was that her husband was the feminist in the family. He was the one who pointed out to her that men had better tennis facilities than women and he was the one who sent her name to Steinem’s MS Magazine to put on a list of prominent women who admitted to having an abortion.

Billie Jean was in a real bind. Here she was the key figure in starting the first women’s tennis tour, Virginia Slims, and agitating for equal pay for women on in the slams, pushing for Title IX that forbids discrimination against women in any school that receives federal funds, and starting World Team Tennis, a version of tennis closer to her sensisiblity of cooperation and fan involvement, and she preferred women.

If she had come out as a lesbian, it not only meant she’d have to leave her husband and fellow activist, but it would greatly impair her effectiveness as a leader in social change. Her lesbianism would be the subject, not the things she wanted to change. Here she was married to someone who shared her vision

As it was, she finally had no choice in the matter. In the early seventies, she began a relationship with Marilyn Barnett. Barnett traveled with Billie Jean and in the HBO documentary, Chris Evert recounts a tournament where Larry King and Barnett both sat in the players’ box. Evert wondered how Billie Jean managed to stay married under the circumstances. Barnett brought a palimony suit against her in 1981 and the jig was up. Billie Jean lost her endorsements and suffered a lot of grief from the gay movement because she said that she regretted the affair. She later explained that she meant that she regretted the affair because she believed in monogamy but the gay community knew that her relationships with Barnett had lasted seven years, not exactly what you’d call an affair, and that Billie jumped even further into the back of the closet after the Barnett court case.

It would be hard to argue about the way Billie Jean handled her sexuality(yuck). She appeared on television with Larry’s arm around her and she also said that she and Larry were considering adoption in a last gasp attempt to repair the damage done by Barnett. That was the cruel behavior of a desperate person.

It was probably too much to ask her to be a lighting rod for the feminist movement, the women’s tour and the gay and lesbian movement. She made a decision that changing the world is more important than being honest about her sexual preference. Many people would argue that who you are is more important than what you do. That her duplicity and subterfuge about her personal relationships undermined her role as a champion for women.

Early in the HBO documentary she says, “A champion has GOT to say to themselves, I want the ball, no matter what, and be willing to be at high risk. You just gotta do it.” After Margaret Court lost to Bobby Riggs in the first battle of the sexes, that same attitude led Billie Jean to know immediately that she had to take Riggs on and beat him. It was critical to the work she was doing with the women’s tour and women’s sports.

That match was the symbolic victory

She was the prime mover in starting the first women’s tennis tour, the Virginia Slims, she was a key figure in agitating for the passage of Title IX, legislation that provided equal sports opportunities for women college students and forbids discrmination in any area at a school that received federal funds, she and Larry founded World Team Tennis, … She might not have been as effective if she had been out and now that our culture is less discriminatory against lesbians, she can talk about her experience openly.

It’s unfortunate, though, that for all the progress we’ve made, our definition of relationships hasn’t changed more. I have lived in relationships that were not based on sexual attraction. We lived together because we enjoyed each other’s company, learned from each other and respected each other. I was living with a former boyfriend as I went through the process of finding out that I was attracted to women. I eventually went to live a woman in New York but that former boyfriend is still one of my closest friends in the world. And I later lived with two women on and off for thirteen years in a very creative and enjoyable situation. Compare it to Simone De Beauvoire(sp?) and Jean Paul Sartre – a marriage of the minds.

[at end of article, “Oh yeah, Bi… Bud Collings Billie Jean King is the best player….]

[interesting to note that B.J. won two million dollars in her career, with 2o Wimbledon titles, 12 grand slam titles and 67 singles titles. That was a long time ago, of course, but Kim Clijsters won more than that at last year’s US Open after adding the bonus for winning the US Open Series. Clijsters should have donated 10% of it to the Women’s Sports Foundation (?), she owes it to Billie Jean.]

NY Times article, ” But the impact of written words is different from that of videotaped recollections, especially in the way the documentary’s producer, Margaret Grossi, set up the interviews. She was inspired by Errol Morris, who, in “The Fog of War,” did not speak face-to-face about the Vietnam War with Robert McNamara, the former defense secretary.
Rather, McNamara spoke to Morris’s image on a monitor just below the camera. Similarly, Carillo sat behind a curtain, asking her questions, while King spoke to Carillo’s televised face.

The effect is to create a more intimate, one-on-one connection with the viewer. “I thought we’d be O.K. because Billie’s looking straight at us, telling us this and it is coming right from her mouth,” said Grossi, who spent 13 years lobbying her bosses at HBO to make the King film.”, intervew with Morris about the interrotron. He uses this technique so the interviewee speaks to the camera. During the interview, the face on the camera in the interviewer, Mary Carillo in the Billie Jean doc, but when it is broadcast, the person being interviewed is looking right at the camera so it seems more intimate. I read some time time ago that Morris said that people sometimes feel freer to talk if they’re looking at a camera. It’s less inhibiting than if someone is sitting there in the room with you looking at you. You can read about the interrotron here:

Announcer at Wimbledon 2005: “As player, promoter and innovator (a catchall term used in lieu of actually detailing everything she’s done from Team Tennis to the women’s tour itself), she’s done more to advanced the cause of women’s sports than any man or woman before or since.”

Number of wimbledon titles.

She could have been talking about Bobby Riggs: “A champion has GOT to say to themselves, I want the ball, no matter what, and be willing to be at high risk.” Risk of homophobia, risk of misogyny, …. “You just gotta do it.”

First I have give full disclosure. Billie Jean King is the greatest tennis player ever. Bud Collins, Russian doc, who’s the best player of all time? answer.

I’m tellin’ ya, I’m just in love with her. Her enthusiasm is moving to me.

She knew early on that she wanted to make the world a better place, given that she was a girl in the 50’s, that “unless I was number one,” I wouldn’t be listened to. Compare that today with the young player who is at dinner with an IMG representative when they’re 10 or 12 years old. Compare that with young players who suffer abuse at the hands of pushy, exploitative parents who are paying ?? thousands of dollars a year for their child to attend a tennis academy.

First title, doubles, at age 17. Her partner, Karen Hantze Susman.

1966 Wimbledon final against Maria Bueno, she won it and became number one in the world. Larry King said that tennis at the time was “an activity you did until you got a real job.”

Is the documentary a good documentary: it’s pretty traditional in the visual cues it uses. Conversataion about burning bras, image of women burning bras.

Wimbledon 1968 finally went open, started playing open tennis, paying the winners, giving them prize money. Until then, players were paid under the table.

In the sixties and early seventies she also realized that she was interested in women, she was married to Larry King by now.
She couldn’t bring herself to accept her homosexuality, particularly in the homophobic atmosphere of the sixties and seventies and women’s open tennis was taking off. What was more important. Helping women get appropriate prize money or her own personal tumult. Billie Jean King, Nancy Richey and Rosie Casals approached Gladys Heldman, publisher(?) of the magazine World Tennis, about having a women’s tour. Nine players started the tour at the risk of being locked out of the USTA (tennis assoc.-the tennis assoc. at the time) tournaments, including Wimbledon, if they started their own tour.

The Virginia Slims Tour, had its start.

She’s gracious. “Chris Evert is the best thing that’s ever happened to women’s tennis.”

1971 US Open final (on grass) – Chris versus Billie Jean. Still, Billie Jean knew that if she lost to Chrissie, the Virginia Slims Tour might fail. Of course, she won. Two years later, Chrissie, who had not been on the tour, joined the tour.

Her husband, Larry King, entered her name on the list in MS magazine of women admitting that they’d had an abortion. Mr. King, always the feminist. She had an abortion because she knew she didn’t want to stay married to Larry King. Feminism = “equal opportunities for boys and girls”

Title 9: The idea of the legislation is that whatever the men get, the women get, sports and everything else. She was out as a feminist beyond the world of tennis.

How many Wimbledon and other titles total?

1972 Billie Jean King and John Wooden were sportswoman and sportsman of the year. First time for a woman. This was around the time she met Marilyn Barnett and had an affair. Barnett started traveling with her on tour. Even Chris Evert, who knew about Barnett, as everyone did, wondered how she and Larry managed to stay married to each other. Larry was either the epitome of the feminist we’d all love to be married to or in great denial. Though I have to say that I have been in relationships like that and was living with my boyfriend, who kind of wasn’t my boyfriend any more, when I started to date women. We were just together.

When the men created the ATP, it was originally a union for the players. They didn’t, of course, invite the women, so you know that Billie Jean spearheaded a women’s union and the WTA was born. If you don’t get it by now, The Virginia Slims Tour, Title 9, the WTA, well, how about Team Tennis?

1973 Wimbledon Final, going for her fifth straight. Billie Jean won singles, mixed doubles and women’s doubles. Also, that year, she played Bobby Riggs. $100,000 winner take all.

In the documentary, Anna…. Bud Collins is asked who is the best player of all time. “No question,”(?) he says, “Billie Jean King.” He speaks the truth. If you want to know why, watch the documentary, Billie Jean King, …Pioneer. The rebroadcast schedule is below.

The documentary is pretty straightforward stuff. Then Billie Jean mentions women burning bras, of course we see an image of
..there isn’t anything here we didn’t know before. The difference is that Billie Jean is willing to sit down and talk about what she was going through, including her difficulty in dealing with being a lesbian. One thing is slightly different about this doc. The filmmakers (???), use the technique pioneered by [links]Errol Morris in his documentaries. He calls it an interrotron. Instead of….

Billie Jean, then, is looking at a camera with the face of her interviewer, Mary Carillo. Carillo is not in the room. This has two effects. The first is that you get the sense that Billie Jean is talking to you, Mary Carillo becomes our stand-in. The second is that people are sometimes more comfortable talking when no one is in the room. It seems to give them the freedom to talk on beyond what they might if someone is sitting there in front of them in the room.

Chris Evert is very entertaining. She says that she was such an idiot in those days. She looks at the camera and say, “I’ve changed,” and we believe it.

When you see her lift up the trophy after beating Bobby Riggs, you remember her opening comment. “A champion has to step up…..” After everything she’s done, and I told you, I’m a complete Billie lover, this is what I most respect about her. In an era where Michael Jordan refuses to say anything that will offend an endorser and Tiger Woods takes only the tiniest step when he could be very influential about the women’s issue at Augusta, Michael and Tiger stepped up when they had to on the court and on the course, but Billie Jean stepped up on and off the court.

Women’s Sports Foundation, did Billie Jean found this? “change attitude towards girls and women in sports.” Elton John appears in a suit with a flower embroidered on it and the fattest, most opulent cross I think I’ve ever seen. If you think that Billie Jean is staid behind those glasses, check out the footage of her shaking her butt and bouncing up and down on Elton John’s piano in the middle of one of his concerts. She performed as a backup singer for Elton John. Priceless.

Then there was World Team Tennis. Men and women’s results counted equally and it was city versus city, like other major sports on the US.

!978 doubles final with Navratilova was her 20th Wimbledon title, a record, and Navratilova was happy to help someone who’d paved the way for her.

In 1979?? Marily Barnett outed Billie Jean King, King hadn’t seen her since 1973, what was the point. This is the one area where Billie wasn’t forthcoming. She called Larry her lover and husband. The footage of Billie Jean looking lovingly at Larry King though she knew long before that she didn’t want to be married to him and also the fact that she suggested that (not in the doc) they were going to adopt, was completely misleading.