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The battle on & off the court

In May 1973, aging tennis star Bobby Riggs challenged the then top player in women’s tennis Margaret Court to a match, beating the Australian champ in three sets.

Emboldened by his victory, the 55-year-old self-promoter labelled women’s tennis as 'inferior' and threw down another challenge – to then US women’s number one player, Billie Jean King.

Months later, 90 million people worldwide gathered around their televisions to watch 29-year-old Billie Jean King take on Riggs in what would become known as the “Battle of the Sexes”.

What unfolded that day created sporting history; but what has changed since in women’s tennis?

On Thursday, 28 September 44 years and 8 days after the Riggs-King showdown, Showtime’s new movie of the event Battle of the Sexes will open in cinemas around the world. Dr Stephanie Kovalchik, a professional with extensive media experience, is available for interview to discuss the following:

  • Did the 1973 match change women’s tennis, and if so, how?
  • How does the Hollywood treatment of the match compare to the actual event?
  • Player history of Billie Jean King.
  • Remember when Australian commentator Ian Cohen asked Eugenie Bouchard to “give us a twirl”? Or when John McEnroe said Serena Williams would be “ranked around No. 700 in the men’s game.” How serious a problem is gender bias for current-day tennis?

Victoria University’s tennis expert Dr Stephanie Kovalchik is a Research Fellow within the Institute of Sport, Exercise and Active Living (ISEAL) and holds a joint appointment at Tennis Australia, where she works as the lead data scientist for the Game Insight Group. She received her PhD from UCLA, where she focused on statistical techniques like multi-level modelling, prediction, and machine learning.

To arrange an interview with Dr Stephanie Kovalchik, please contact VU's media team.

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