How Good is Bobby Riggs?

Max Schnur

How Good is Bobby Riggs

Bobby Riggs, a renowned name in the realm of tennis, has left an indelible mark on the sport and the hearts of fans. Dominating the tennis scene during the late 1930s and early 1940s, Riggs showcased the extraordinary talent that propelled him to the pinnacle of the game.

With two U.S. National Men’s Singles Championships and a mixed doubles title under his belt, Riggs cemented his status as a true tennis legend. Yet, to fully grasp the magnitude of Riggs’ greatness, we must delve beyond his accolades. Exploring his playing style, skills, and the competitive landscape of his era enables a comprehensive understanding of his remarkable achievements.

Additionally, comparing Riggs to his contemporaries helps shed light on his unparalleled prowess. Above all, his unforgettable Battle of the Sexes match against Billie Jean King serves as a timeless testament to his enduring legacy in the realm of tennis.

Accomplishments and Rankings

Riggs’ World Top 10 Rankings From 1937 to 1939

Bobby Riggs’ journey to becoming a tennis legend can be traced back to his consistent presence among the top-ranked players in the world during the late 1930s.

From 1937 to 1939, Riggs maintained his position in the prestigious world top 10 rankings. This achievement showcases his exceptional skill and consistency on the court.

In an era that boasted a formidable array of talented players, Riggs consistently proved himself to be among the elite.

Two U.s. National Men’s Singles Championships

The U.S. National Men’s Singles Championships, now known as the US Open, are one of the most prestigious tournaments in tennis. Bobby Riggs left an indelible mark on this tournament by winning the Men’s Singles Championship twice.

In 1939, Riggs claimed his first title, displaying his exceptional talent and resilience on the court. He followed this up with another triumph in 1941, solidifying his reputation as a force to be reckoned with in the tennis world.

Riggs’ ability to perform at the highest level in such esteemed tournaments highlights his exceptional skills and mental fortitude.

Riggs’ Mixed Doubles Title

In addition to his success in the singles category, Bobby Riggs also excelled in doubles play. In 1940, he clinched the mixed doubles title at the U.S.

National Championships. Partnering with Alice Marble, a talented player in her own right, Riggs demonstrated his versatility and ability to work effectively as part of a team.

This victory in mixed doubles further solidifies Riggs’ status as a multi-dimensional player who could excel in various formats of the game.

Bobby Riggs’ accomplishments and rankings speak volumes about his skill, consistency, and ability to perform under pressure. From his world top 10 rankings to his triumphs in both singles and mixed doubles at prestigious tournaments, Riggs left an indelible mark on the tennis world.

These achievements serve as a testament to his talent, dedication, and contributions to the sport.

Playing Style and Skills

Riggs’ Strategic Approach to the Game

Bobby Riggs was not only a skillful player but also a master tactician on the tennis court. His strategic approach to the game allowed him to outsmart and outmaneuver opponents.

Riggs possessed a deep understanding of the game, analyzing his opponents’ weaknesses and devising game plans to exploit them. He had a keen sense of timing and court awareness, which allowed him to execute well-thought-out strategies during matches.

Riggs’ ability to adapt his game and make strategic adjustments in real-time set him apart as a player.

Technical Prowess, Court Coverage, and Strong Serve

Riggs’ technical skills were top-notch, contributing to his success on the court. He possessed a fluid and technically sound tennis stroke, allowing him to generate power and control in his shots.

Riggs had excellent footwork, which enabled him to cover the court efficiently and retrieve difficult shots. His agility and speed allowed him to reach seemingly unreachable balls, frustrating opponents and gaining an advantage in rallies.

Furthermore, Riggs’ strong serve was a formidable weapon in his arsenal. He had the ability to deliver powerful and well-placed serves that often put him in a commanding position in points.

Riggs’ Ability to Outmaneuver Opponents

One of the key attributes that made Bobby Riggs a standout player was his ability to outmaneuver opponents. He possessed exceptional court awareness and anticipation, allowing him to read his opponents’ shots and position himself advantageously.

Riggs had a knack for finding open spaces on the court and executing precise shot placement. His ability to vary the pace and spin of his shots, combined with his strategic shot selection, often left opponents off-balance and struggling to respond.

Riggs’ clever shot selection and ability to dictate play enabled him to control matches and keep opponents on the defensive.

Bobby Riggs’ playing style and skills made him a formidable opponent on the tennis court. His strategic approach, technical prowess, court coverage, strong serve, and ability to outmaneuver opponents set him apart as a player who excelled in all facets of the game.

Riggs’ combination of strategic acumen and technical mastery allowed him to consistently outwit and outplay his adversaries, cementing his reputation as a highly skilled and tactically astute tennis player.

Comparisons to Contemporaries

Riggs’ Performances Against Other Top Players of His Era

To truly assess Bobby Riggs’ greatness, it is important to evaluate his performances against other top players of his time. Riggs competed during an era that featured formidable tennis talents such as Don Budge, Fred Perry, and Ellsworth Vines.

Riggs had numerous encounters with these renowned players, engaging in fiercely competitive matches that showcased his skills and abilities.

Evaluating Riggs’ head-to-head records, match results, and overall performances against his contemporaries provides valuable insights into his standing among his peers.

Level of Competition During Riggs’ Time

The level of competition during Bobby Riggs’ era was exceptionally high. The 1930s and early 1940s were marked by a rich pool of talented players who pushed each other to the limits on the tennis court.

Riggs competed in an era where tennis was rapidly evolving, witnessing advancements in playing styles, equipment, and training methods. The presence of numerous world-class players challenged Riggs to continually elevate his game and strive for excellence.

Riggs’ ability to thrive in such a competitive environment speaks volumes about his skills and adaptability.

How His Skills and Achievements Measure Up Against Peers

When assessing Bobby Riggs’ skills and achievements, it is essential to consider how they measure up against those of his peers. Comparing statistics, accolades, and overall contributions to the sport can provide valuable insights into Riggs’ standing among the top players of his era.

Riggs’ multiple U.S. National Men’s Singles Championships, his world top 10 rankings, and his success in doubles competitions all contribute to his stature as a highly accomplished player.

By examining the accomplishments and reputations of his contemporaries, we can gauge the level of respect and recognition Riggs received during his career.

It is important to note that making direct comparisons between players from different eras can be challenging due to various factors such as changes in technology, playing conditions, and training methods.

However, evaluating Riggs’ performances against his contemporaries and considering the level of competition during his time can provide valuable context for understanding his greatness in the tennis landscape of his era.

Evolution of Tennis and Challenges in Comparison

Changes in Equipment, Training Methods, and Overall Sport

Since Bobby Riggs’ era, tennis has undergone significant changes in terms of equipment, training methods, and the overall nature of the sport. Technological advancements have led to the development of modern racquets, which provide players with enhanced power, spin, and control.

Furthermore, changes in court surfaces and balls have influenced the speed and bounce of the game. Training methods have also evolved, with athletes now benefiting from advancements in sports science, fitness regimens, and specialized coaching techniques.

These factors have collectively influenced the style of play and strategies employed by today’s players.

Difficulty of Comparing Players From Different Eras

Comparing players from different eras poses inherent challenges. Tennis evolves over time, and the sport’s landscape continually changes. Factors such as advancements in equipment, changes in court surfaces, and the overall competitiveness of the game have a significant impact on players’ performances.

Comparing players across eras requires careful consideration of the different contexts in which they competed. Variables such as the level of competition, style of play, and available resources need to be taken into account to ensure a fair and accurate assessment of players’ greatness.

Factors on Assessing Riggs’ Greatness

The evolution of tennis and the challenges of comparing players across different eras have implications for assessing Bobby Riggs’ greatness. Riggs’ achievements and skills should be evaluated in the context of his time, considering the equipment, training methods, and competitive landscape prevalent during his career.

While Riggs’ accomplishments were undoubtedly remarkable, it is important to recognize that the game has evolved since then. Comparing his statistics and accomplishments directly with those of contemporary players can be difficult due to the aforementioned factors.

Nevertheless, Riggs’ successes, rankings, and performances against his peers firmly establish him as one of the elite players of his era.

His strategic approach, technical abilities, and achievements during a highly competitive period in tennis history speak to his exceptional skills and contributions to the sport.

While direct comparisons may be challenging, recognizing the impact of the sport’s evolution and contextualizing Riggs’ greatness within his own era allows us to appreciate his legacy in the broader context of tennis history.

Legacy and Impact

Riggs’ Influence on the Sport of Tennis

Bobby Riggs’ impact on the sport of tennis extends beyond his on-court accomplishments. His contributions and influence have left an indelible mark on the game.

Riggs’ innovative and strategic playing style inspired future generations of players to approach the sport with intelligence and creativity. His ability to adapt to different opponents and situations set a precedent for players to analyze and exploit their opponents’ weaknesses.

Riggs’ approach to the game continues to be studied and emulated by players and coaches today.

Role in Promoting the Game and Increasing Its Popularity

Bobby Riggs played a crucial role in promoting and popularizing tennis. His flamboyant personality and charismatic nature made him a media sensation and drew attention to the sport.

Riggs understood the entertainment value of tennis and leveraged it to capture the public’s interest. He was known for engaging in exhibition matches, including famous encounters with celebrities and other prominent figures.

Riggs’ ability to create buzz around the sport helped increase its popularity and attract new fans, contributing to the growth of tennis as a global phenomenon.

Battle of the Sexes Match and Lasting Significance

One of the defining moments in Bobby Riggs’ career was the legendary Battle of the Sexes match. In 1973, Riggs faced Billie Jean King, one of the top female players of the time, in a highly anticipated match that transcended the sport.

The match was a groundbreaking event that symbolized the struggle for gender equality and sparked conversations about women’s representation and recognition in sports.

Riggs’ participation in the Battle of the Sexes match, although ultimately losing to King, brought attention to the capabilities and competitiveness of female athletes and challenged societal perceptions of gender roles in sports.

The Battle of the Sexes match had a lasting impact on tennis and society as a whole. It propelled women’s tennis into the spotlight and contributed to the growth of women’s sports.

The match symbolized a turning point in the fight for equality and encouraged further progress in promoting women’s participation and representation in sports.

Riggs’ role in this historic event solidified his legacy as a catalyst for change and an advocate for equality within the sport.

Bobby Riggs’ legacy extends beyond his accomplishments on the tennis court. His influence, both as a player and a promoter of the game, continues to be felt today.

Riggs’ innovative playing style, his role in increasing the popularity of tennis, and his involvement in groundbreaking events like the Battle of the Sexes match have left an enduring impact on the sport.

Riggs’ contributions have helped shape the tennis landscape and inspire generations of players to push the boundaries of what is possible on and off the court.

Bobby Riggs’ Tennis Achievements

RankingsWorld top 10 rankings from 1937 to 1939
U.S. National Men’s SinglesChampionships in 1939 and 1941
U.S. National Mixed Doubles TitleMixed doubles title in 1940
Strategic ApproachKnown for his strategic approach to the game
Technical SkillsExcellent technique, court coverage, and strong serve
Ability to Outmaneuver OpponentsSkilled at reading opponents’ shots, precise shot placement
 and ability to outmaneuver opponents
Contribution to Tennis TacticsPopularized the concept of “percentage tennis” and strategic play
and Strategies 
Philanthropy and CharitableInvolved in philanthropic and charitable endeavors related to tennis
Post-Retirement InvolvementContinued involvement in tennis as a coach, commentator, and promoter
Resources for Further Exploration“Court Hustler: The Story of Bobby Riggs in Tennis and Life” book
 “Battle of the Sexes” documentary film


Did Bobby Riggs have any notable rivalries during his career?

Yes, Bobby Riggs had several notable rivalries during his career. One of the most famous was his rivalry with Don Budge, another top player of the era. Riggs and Budge faced each other multiple times in highly competitive matches, showcasing their skills and battling for supremacy on the court.

How did Bobby Riggs contribute to the development of tennis tactics and strategies?

Bobby Riggs was known for his strategic approach to the game, and his contributions to tennis tactics and strategies are noteworthy. Riggs popularized the concept of “percentage tennis,” which emphasized playing high-percentage shots and minimizing unforced errors. His ability to read his opponents’ game and exploit their weaknesses demonstrated a deep understanding of strategy, influencing future players and coaches in their approach to the sport.

Was Bobby Riggs involved in any philanthropic or charitable endeavors related to tennis?

Yes, Bobby Riggs was actively involved in philanthropic and charitable endeavors related to tennis. He dedicated himself to promoting the sport and using it as a means to benefit various causes. Riggs participated in exhibition matches and charity events to raise funds for charitable organizations, contributing to the betterment of society through his involvement in the sport he loved.

Did Bobby Riggs continue to be involved in tennis after retiring as a player?

Yes, Bobby Riggs remained involved in tennis even after retiring as a player. He continued to contribute to the sport as a coach, commentator, and promoter. Riggs shared his knowledge and expertise with up-and-coming players, providing guidance and support. His charismatic personality and deep understanding of the game made him a sought-after commentator and analyst, further solidifying his presence in the tennis world.

Are there any books or documentaries about Bobby Riggs that provide more insight into his life and career?

Yes, there are books and documentaries that delve deeper into Bobby Riggs’ life and career. One notable book is “Court Hustler: The Story of Bobby Riggs in Tennis and Life” by Bob Considine and Neil Amdur, which provides an in-depth look at Riggs’ journey in and out of tennis. Additionally, the documentary film “Battle of the Sexes” released in 2017 focuses on the famous match between Riggs and Billie Jean King and sheds light on Riggs’ impact on the sport.


Bobby Riggs remains a revered figure in tennis history, celebrated for his extraordinary skills, accomplishments, and lasting impact on the sport. Riggs’ impressive record, including world top 10 rankings, multiple championship titles, and consistent performance, places him among the elite players of his time.

His strategic brilliance and ability to outmaneuver opponents set him apart as a formidable competitor. While acknowledging the challenges of comparing players across eras, Riggs’ ability to thrive in a highly competitive landscape underscores his greatness.

Bobby Riggs’ legacy endures through his impact on the game, his role in inspiring future generations, and his place in the annals of tennis history as an exceptional player and promoter of the sport.

Photo of author

Max Schnur

I am a professional tennis player on the ATP Tour. I am currently ranked at #29 in the world and have been playing for more than ten years. I started practicing tennis when I was five years old and quickly became obsessed with the sport. I started playing competitively at age 10, and after turning pro in 2004, I was able to compete on the ATP Tour for a decade. As an international athlete, my life has always been about travel and my love of traveling has led me to explore different cultures around the world. When not on tour, I can be found traveling around Europe or living it up in Las Vegas with friends from all over the globe! LinkedIn

Leave a Comment