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Daily Bagel: Did Bobby Riggs fix Battle of the Sexes match vs. Billie Jean King?

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The Daily Bagel is your dose of the interesting reporting, writing and quipping from around the Internet.

• Video: Novak Djokovic went to the UN on Friday to launch the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, which will be held on April 6, 2014.

• With the 40th anniversary of the Battle of the Sexes looming, ESPN investigates whether Bobby Riggs tanked the match against Billie Jean King to satisfy a mafia debt.

“Did he know mafia guys? Absolutely,” Larry Riggs says. “Is it possible these guys were talking some s—? Yes, it is possible. They talked to him about doing it? Possible.” However, Riggs says, it was more likely his father purposefully lost with an eye toward setting up a bigger payday rematch — and a continuation of the national publicity that he so craved — than throw the match for mob money. Larry Riggs also says he remains baffled by the fact his father did not prepare for the King match — the only match in Bobby Riggs’ life for which he had failed to train. “Never understood it,” Larry Riggs says.

• At Sports on Earth, Lindsay Gibbs evaluates the current state of American men’s tennis and how the USTA is trying to turn things around.

[USTA director of coaching Jose] Higueras is passionate about the importance of hard work, which is why he enjoys the qualification tournament so much — players have to earn their spot.

“If it was up to me, there would be no wild cards. Wild cards create entitlement for the kids. I think you should be in the draw if you actually are good enough to get in the draw,” he said. “I think one of the things that hurt Donald [Young] when he was young [was that] he got so many wild cards. They don’t make you a player.”

As Higueras focuses on changing the mindset of our youth and expanding powers of the USTA Player Development Program, he’s realistic about the prospects of directly creating the next [Pete] Sampras or [John] McEnroe. “You can put together a system where you have some good players, but the special players are going to come on their own. That’s just how it works.”

“I don’t care. I just want people with an American passport to be good. I can care less if they work with us, or they don’t work with us, or how much we help them or not.”

• The New Yorker profiles Djokovic.

Laura Robson, now managed by IMG’s Max Eisenbud, details the wrist injury she’s carrying into the U.S. Open.

USA Today‘s For The Win has a great look at Juan Martin del Potro’s cannon-like running forehand.

• Via Facebook, here’s what tennis players have been up to in Manhattan.

• No U.S. Open credential for John Tomic.

The USTA “opted not to credential” John Tomic after receiving a request from Bernard Tomic’s agent, said USTA spokesman Chris Widmaier.

“Our desire is to make it as difficult as possible for him to gain entry to the US Open,” Widmaier said.

• I was asked recently about my tennis pet peeve and I noted the tendency for people to conflate “lots of breaks of serve” with “crappy match.” This New York Times piece looks at the data on why there are more breaks of serve in the women’s game.

Because the serve is not quite as venomous on the women’s tour, it makes sense that the return games would flourish. The women’s tour always gets heat because its players can’t hold serve as much, but that holds little weight because they don’t have an Isner or a Raonic fireball to rely on. Imagine giving players on the ATP Tour only one serve, which would automatically drop serve speeds, and you would start to see the men having substantial difficulty holding serve as well.

While the men dominate the serving statistics, it’s the women who outperform in the returning area. Angelique Kerber led the women with 89 percent returns made last year, and 47 women made at least 75 percent of their returns. The men were vastly inferior in this area, with only eight players making at least 75 percent of their returns. The power dictates this result.

• Non-tennis: There was a time when the VMAs weren’t a spectacular train wreck.

  • Published On Aug 26, 2013
  • 27 comments
    mystafugee
    mystafugee

    People excuse Pete Rose because he bet ON his team.  That's besides the point, he was racking up a big debt with organized crime.  Eventually they probably would have forced his hand to settle the debt.

    RobertJacke
    RobertJacke

    after 40 years no one cares, and if we did nothing will happen to anyone.............

    Rickapolis
    Rickapolis

    I hear the Super Bowl was rigged all those years the Patriot won. Belichick has the goods on Goodell (that's why the 'Spygate' tapes were burned). It'll be the Pat's turn again this year. The only reason they lost those two SB's is because the Giants have even MORE goods on Goodell.

    That's what I've heard. Do you believe THAT??? 

    RobRiggs
    RobRiggs

    I'm the grandson of Bobby and son of Larry Riggs, and this 'story' is the biggest pro-wrestling style influenced work/act/angle, whatever you want to call it, in tennis history. The match was not thrown, ridiculous, and this is coming from his blood relative. This story is amazingly hilarious however, and put together so much like a bad WWE soap-opera skit, so kudos to ESPN for having the testicular fortitude to actually air this. Now, please go do a follow up story on Scott Hall, that's what we all really want

    joeshine730
    joeshine730

    Billie Jean King looked like a man more than Riggs did.

    Rickapolis
    Rickapolis

    Ah, revisionist history. Tell a lie often enough and long enough there will be saps to lap it up.  BJK trounced Riggs fair and square. 

    But wait! I read on Wikipedia that it was actually Riggs' evil twin that played that match, so King didn't REALLY beat him.

    GoBlue_1985
    GoBlue_1985

    Using this new program for sports betting that is known as sports`betting=star.  Ive put it to the test, and now Im making $3000 every 30 days using it!

    Johnny10
    Johnny10

    I worked with Dennis Van der Meer (who coached Billie Jean) and heard him tell one of his clinic groups a story about the match. He said Riggs hit a set-up shot to BJ, didn’t cover the obvious response, and then when she hit the winner, said, “Good girl!” BJ was surprised Riggs didn’t cover the shot, and at his response. He then did the exact same thing again a bit later, responding, “Good girl!” when she hit the winner. Dennis basically said, “I’m not saying Bobby threw the match, but they did have an agreement that there would be a re-match no matter who won, and he was livid when Billie Jean reneged on the agreement.”

    ScottHoward
    ScottHoward

    Bobby Riggs was hitting the ball at a 2.5 level.  

    muser
    muser

    The Riggs / King match was a farce. Bobby was an old man who never was relevant playing against one of the best women players ever, in her prime. He hit to the singles court, she hit to the doubles. 

    The last qualifier into the US Open Mens draw would beat Serena 6-0 6-0..

    usable.thought
    usable.thought

    Just clicked through to the Delpo forehand story with the GIF of his running forehand. Great use of graphics + infomation. I felt I should duck as I watched.

    BethannbillyWintour
    BethannbillyWintour

    Once again The Courtney has taken all of her stuff from r/tennis.  Please give credit where credit is due. 

    Tom14
    Tom14

    Interesting story on the Riggs/King match but....I would have to see the full match between Court and Riggs to see if Bobby's game was that much different. Funny how slow and clunky the game looked back then. In the end I think Bobby enjoyed the respect Billie Jean and Rosie Casal gave to Bobby for in the end elevating and promoting the women's game.

    spystud
    spystud

    Very good article on Laura Robson, not just about her injury. 

    usable.thought
    usable.thought

    What's interesting to me about the NYT piece on women's vs. men's serving is not that women don't generate as much heat on a serve - that is obvious - but why this is so. I believe it's not so much lack of muscle, but lack of height. On the men's side, it's obvious that shorter guys like David Ferrer have to work much harder to protect their serve; so my expectation is that women being generally shorter, the same should be true for them. The only wrinkle in my theory is that two of the best servers in the women's game - Serena Williams and Sam Stosur - are both a mere 5'9 (and Stosur is possibly only 5'8"). You'd expect the dominant servers on the WTA to be the tall women such as Kvitova at 6', Azarenka ditto, or Sharapova at 6'2"; but instead those three women have serves of glass, so brittle that they are often broken. It seems a paradox that would render my theory somehow wrong.

    KeysSteven
    KeysSteven

    @Rickapolis That's just what Hal Shaw claims: "Tell a lie (Riggs honestly competed and BJK won) often enough (for 40 years)...saps to lap it up," and we have, though, I don't feel sappy.  How could we've know?

    But these guys words (Hal & Larry) ring true (OTL).  It looks like a sham, and a shame, for Billie, Margaret and fans who were never informed of suscpicions by the experts.  Easy enough to see now when watching the clips from '73 (ESPN).  And where were the feds when the rumors flew?

    It ain't no "marshmallow world (Martin & Heffernan)."

    RobRiggs
    RobRiggs

    @muser Never relevant yet still being talked about 40 years later, weird.

    MatthewGrantAnson
    MatthewGrantAnson

    @muserIn recent years, a persistent urban legend has arisen, particularly on the Internet, that the rules were modified for the match so that Riggs had only one serve for King's two, and that King was allowed to hit into the doubles court area. This is false: the match was played under the normal rules of tennis. The modified rules were applied to the Connors v Navratilova match in 1992, which may have contributed to the confusion.

    Johnny10
    Johnny10

    @usable.thought 

     It's mostly the different motions they use. Ben Kibler did an article about it called the The 4,000-Watt Tennis Player. Women lose power using a pull-through motion, which makes the hips go backward, while men us a more efficient push-through motion with the hips going forward. Women who get it right (e.g., Schulz-McCarthy) serve harder than men who don't (e.g., Connors). If men and women both used the same motion, men would have a slightly higher average serving speed because of the increase in height and muscle mass. When they don't use the same motion, you see the exponential difference in power. Teach your daughter how to throw a football and she'll be able to serve 100 mph+.

    MichaelC
    MichaelC

    @usable.thought I think it starts with junior-level tennis. At least from my experience, from early on, male players treat serving as a weapon - an offensive tool to start and end points. For girls, the emphasis has always been on a consistent baseline line and the serve is viewed more of a "get it in play." I really think this distinction is gender based - aggression vs. passivity - and one that permeates through a relatively traditional/conservative culture in junior tennis. 

     Remember, in junior tennis, it's all about embedding muscle memory to your swing - the focus is hours upon hours (and years) of replicating the same ground strokes and service motion ... to ensure your body will maintain a standard of play even in pressure-packed moments. But at the highest level, what often happens? For women, the serve breaks down and becomes a massive liability - oftentimes, they can't even get the ball toss (which should be second nature) right.  I understand detractors will say that female players are weak or feeble minded or chokers ... but I think it stems more from a lack of valuing the serve from a young age.


    Tom14
    Tom14

    @usable.thought I'm coming to the conclusion the NY Times sports department will eventually call for the end of men's sports or at least make attendance mandatory for all women athletic events.

    RobRiggs
    RobRiggs

    @KeysSteven @Rickapolis Yeah... no. Larry is my father, who altho never himself rose to the tennis fame heights of HIS father, he has become the worlds greatest exaggerator and story teller.

    RobRiggs
    RobRiggs

    @KeysSteven @RobRiggs @Rickapolis and in addition, no one has ever heard of this Hal Shaw guy in the whole history of the Riggs family. Just another guy with a story for his 15minutes. Unfortunate he lacked the 'courage' to 'come out' with this big scoop while Bobby was still alive.

    RobRiggs
    RobRiggs

    @KeysSteven @RobRiggs @Rickapolis Unfortunately you're just going to have to take my word on this one, that is just my father. Larry likes to leave everything ambiguous. Everything is a 'possibiity' or a 'could be', very open ended answers, and how I can see why you or others would see those clips of him saying that and think "wow his own son is saying its possible", my dad will say ANYTHING could be possible. He's blunt, no filter, says ridiculous things.... just like his father BOBBY. Both big show-men. I grew up with these people (Larry, Bobby, Lornie), Bobby's actual family... i think that gives a lot of clout as far as insider information. Did Bobby like to gamble? HELL yeah, but a debt of what was described in this story was nothing to him at this time, he was well off and paid, there'd be no need to throw a match or make money in that way. He was a gambler, a hustler, an athlete, but at the end of the day, a lot of the public image persona was just a character. In his private moments he is not a cheater, liar, or user.

    KeysSteven
    KeysSteven

    @RobRiggs @KeysSteven @Rickapolis That may be, Rob, but it wasn't a "story" Larry told which had sway on me.  Others gave persuasive insights in the ESPN report, including Hal and tennis reporter early on (?), as well as factual aspects of Bobby Riggs' life (going to fix motive) which add weight to Hal's claim.  Clips from the '73 match were the clincher.  As for your father, just the fact he seemed to tailor his words ("possibly") lended veracity to his comments.