What Happened to Bobby Riggs?

Max Schnur

What Happened to Bobby Riggs

Bobby Riggs, a prominent figure in the world of tennis, left an indelible mark on the sport through his achievements as a player and his later activities as a hustler and gambler.

Riggs’ tennis career was filled with notable successes, including winning the Men’s Doubles and Mixed Doubles titles at the 1939 Wimbledon Championships. However, it was his post-retirement endeavors that thrust him into the spotlight and forever changed his legacy.

Riggs became known for organizing exhibition challenges, enticing active and retired tennis professionals to participate. One particular event, the infamous “Battle of the Sexes,” captured the world’s attention and cemented Riggs’ place in sporting history.

In this blog, we will delve into the life and journey of Bobby Riggs, exploring his tennis prowess, his transition into hustling and gambling, and the events surrounding the “Battle of the Sexes” match.

Early Life and Tennis Success

Background and Early Years in Tennis

Bobby Riggs, born Robert Larimore Riggs on February 25, 1918, in Los Angeles, California, developed a passion for tennis from a young age.

Growing up in a tennis-oriented family, Riggs was introduced to the sport by his father and began honing his skills at local tennis clubs. His exceptional talent quickly became evident, and he rose through the ranks of junior tennis, showcasing his promising abilities.

Highlights of Riggs’ Professional Career

Wimbledon Championships in 1939

The year 1939 marked a significant milestone in Bobby Riggs’ career as he made a lasting impact at the prestigious Wimbledon Championships. Riggs displayed his versatility by achieving success in both the Men’s Doubles and Mixed Doubles categories. Partnering with Elwood Cooke, he claimed the Men’s Doubles title, showcasing his formidable teamwork and tactical prowess. In the Mixed Doubles event, Riggs partnered with Alice Marble to emerge victorious, solidifying his reputation as a versatile and accomplished player.

Other Notable Tournament Performances

Beyond his triumph at Wimbledon, Bobby Riggs had several notable tournament performances throughout his professional career. He displayed consistency and skill in various competitions, often reaching the latter stages of tournaments. While he didn’t capture a Grand Slam singles title, Riggs reached the quarterfinals of the Wimbledon Men’s Singles in 1939, showcasing his proficiency as a singles player on the international stage. His consistent performances and competitive spirit earned him respect among his peers and established him as a formidable opponent.

Bobby Riggs’ early experiences in tennis paved the way for his future accomplishments. With impressive victories at Wimbledon in 1939 and notable performances in other prestigious tournaments, Riggs established himself as a skilled and versatile player.

These successes laid the foundation for his transition into the next phase of his career, where he would become renowned for his hustling and gambling activities in the tennis world.

Transition to Hustling and Gambling

Riggs’ Retirement From Professional Tennis

After a successful professional tennis career, Bobby Riggs made the decision to retire from competitive play. The exact reasons behind his retirement are not widely documented, but it marked a turning point in his life and opened the door to new opportunities.

Hustling and Gambling Activities

With his competitive drive still intact, Riggs turned to hustling and gambling as avenues to stay connected to the sport and continue testing his skills. He ventured into organizing exhibition challenges and matches, creating a platform where active and retired tennis professionals could participate.

Organizing exhibition challenges and matches

Riggs became a mastermind in arranging exhibition challenges, devising intriguing matchups that piqued the interest of both tennis enthusiasts and casual observers. These exhibitions allowed Riggs to showcase his talent and entertain audiences while also providing an opportunity for other players to participate in high-stakes matches.

Inviting active and retired tennis pros to participate

Bobby Riggs had a knack for drawing attention and luring top tennis professionals into his exhibition challenges. He would invite both active players seeking a new kind of competition and retired legends who still had a passion for the game. Riggs’ reputation as a formidable opponent and his ability to generate excitement around these matches made his invitations enticing to many in the tennis community.

Riggs’ transition to hustling and gambling enabled him to continue engaging with the sport he loved. Through organizing exhibition challenges and enticing active and retired tennis pros to participate, he created a unique space for competition and entertainment.

These activities set the stage for one of the most iconic moments in tennis history—the “Battle of the Sexes” match against Billie Jean King.

The “Battle of the Sexes”

Highly Publicized Match Against Billie Jean King

The “Battle of the Sexes” match between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King took place on September 20, 1973, and garnered immense attention worldwide. It was a highly publicized event that captured not only the tennis community’s interest but also the broader public’s fascination.

Riggs’ Ability to Defeat Any Female Tennis Player

Prior to the match, Bobby Riggs made bold assertions about his ability to defeat any female tennis player, underlining his belief in male superiority in sports.

His self-proclaimed title as the “male chauvinist pig” ignited a fervent debate about gender equality and set the stage for an unforgettable showdown.

Previous Victory Against Margaret Court

Riggs had previously defeated Margaret Court, a top-ranked female player, in another exhibition match. This victory added to the hype and created anticipation for his clash with Billie Jean King, who was widely considered the leading female tennis player of the time.

Detail of the Match at Houston Astrodome

The “Battle of the Sexes” match took place at the Houston Astrodome, a massive indoor arena that accommodated a record-breaking crowd.

The event was a spectacle, featuring glamorous entrances, lively commentary, and a charged atmosphere. Riggs, then 55 years old, faced off against 29-year-old Billie Jean King in a highly anticipated showdown.

Billie Jean King’s Victory and Its Impact

In a resounding victory, Billie Jean King defeated Bobby Riggs in straight sets with a score of 6-4, 6-3, 6-3. King’s win not only solidified her position as a tennis legend but also had a significant impact on the perception of gender equality in sports.

It demonstrated that women could compete at the highest level and prevail against their male counterparts. The match became a symbol of empowerment for women and helped pave the way for greater recognition and opportunities for female athletes.

The “Battle of the Sexes” match between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King remains an iconic moment in sports history, showcasing the power of tennis as a platform for social change and challenging long-standing gender stereotypes in athletics.

Continued Involvement in Tennis

Riggs’ Activities Post-“Battle of the Sexes”

Following the “Battle of the Sexes” match, Bobby Riggs continued to be involved in the world of tennis, albeit in different capacities. While his defeat against Billie Jean King marked the end of his competitive career, it didn’t dampen his enthusiasm for the sport.

Commentary and Coaching Roles in Tennis

Riggs transitioned into a career as a commentator and coach, utilizing his extensive knowledge and experience in the game to provide insightful analysis and guidance.

His charismatic personality and deep understanding of tennis made him a sought-after figure in the tennis community.

Recognition and Legacy as a Tennis Personality

Despite the loss in the “Battle of the Sexes,” Bobby Riggs’ involvement in the match and his overall contributions to tennis earned him a lasting legacy.

He is remembered as a charismatic and flamboyant personality who helped popularize the sport through his hustling and exhibition matches. His willingness to engage in high-profile challenges and promote the sport contributed to its growing popularity.

Riggs’ continued involvement in tennis after the “Battle of the Sexes” demonstrated his enduring passion for the game. Through his commentary and coaching roles, he shared his expertise with a new generation of players and fans.

While his legacy extends beyond his accomplishments as a player, it is his larger-than-life persona and willingness to push boundaries that continue to shape the way tennis is perceived today.

Personal and Financial Struggles

Riggs’ Personal Challenges and Gambling Addiction

Behind Bobby Riggs’ public persona and tennis-related activities, he faced personal challenges, including a gambling addiction. Riggs’ involvement in hustling and gambling took a toll on his personal life and contributed to a cycle of financial difficulties.

Impact on His Personal Life and Relationships

Riggs’ gambling addiction and hustling activities had a significant impact on his personal life and relationships. The strain caused by his financial instability and the risks associated with gambling likely affected his family and close connections.

The toll of these struggles on his personal relationships is a facet of his life that is often less discussed in relation to his tennis career.

Financial Difficulties and Consequences

Riggs’ gambling addiction and financial challenges resulted in significant consequences. The financial instability caused by his gambling habit likely led to debts and financial strain.

It’s worth noting that Riggs’ involvement in exhibition matches and hustling was partly driven by the need to generate income. However, the unpredictable nature of gambling can exacerbate financial struggles and create a cycle that is difficult to break.

Bobby Riggs’ personal and financial struggles shed light on the complexities that can arise outside the realm of his tennis career.

While he achieved fame and recognition as a tennis player, his battles with gambling addiction and the subsequent financial difficulties highlight the challenges he faced in his personal life.

These struggles serve as a reminder of the human side of sports figures and the impact that personal circumstances can have on their overall well-being.

Bobby Riggs’ Legacy

Riggs’ Influence and Contribution to Tennis

Bobby Riggs made significant contributions to the sport of tennis both as a player and as a personality. His successes on the court, particularly his Wimbledon titles in 1939, showcased his skill and versatility.

Riggs’ involvement in exhibition challenges and his ability to draw attention to the sport helped popularize tennis and generate excitement among fans. He played a role in expanding the reach and visibility of the game during his era.

Lasting Impact of the “Battle of the Sexes” Match

The “Battle of the Sexes” match between Riggs and Billie Jean King remains a seminal moment in sports history. While Riggs was ultimately defeated, the match had a profound impact on gender equality in sports.

It sparked discussions and challenged societal perceptions of women’s abilities, opening doors for greater recognition and opportunities for female athletes. The match continues to be referenced as a significant milestone in the ongoing fight for gender equality in sports.

Riggs’ Strengths and Weaknesses as a Tennis Figure

Bobby Riggs’ strengths as a tennis figure lay in his competitive spirit, versatility, and ability to captivate audiences. He showcased his skills through his victories and became a prominent figure in the tennis world.

However, his hustling and gambling activities, as well as his personal struggles, revealed his weaknesses and the challenges he faced outside of the sport.

It is important to remember Riggs as a complex individual with both triumphs and struggles, contributing to a nuanced understanding of his legacy.

Overall, Bobby Riggs’ legacy encompasses his achievements on the court, his involvement in exhibition challenges, and the enduring impact of the “Battle of the Sexes” match.

His contributions to tennis, coupled with his personal and financial struggles, highlight the multifaceted nature of his journey and leave a lasting imprint on the sport’s history.

Bobby Riggs – Career Highlights and Impact

Topic Description
Tennis Career Highlights – Wimbledon Championships: Men’s Doubles and Mixed Doubles titles (1939)<br>- Notable tournament performances
Transition to Hustling and Gambling – Retirement from professional tennis<br>- Organizing exhibition challenges and matches
The “Battle of the Sexes” – Highly publicized match against Billie Jean King<br>- Riggs’ assertion of defeating any female player<br>- Previous victory against Margaret Court<br>- Description of the match at the Houston Astrodome<br>- Impact on gender equality in sports
Continued Involvement in Tennis – Commentary and coaching roles in tennis
Personal and Financial Struggles – Riggs’ personal challenges and gambling addiction<br>- Impact on personal life and relationships<br>- Financial difficulties and consequences
Bobby Riggs’ Legacy – Reflection on Riggs’ influence and contribution to tennis<br>- Lasting impact of the “Battle of the Sexes” match<br>- Remembering Riggs’ strengths and weaknesses as a tennis figure


Did Bobby Riggs continue to participate in exhibition matches after the “Battle of the Sexes”?

Yes, Bobby Riggs remained active in organizing and participating in exhibition matches even after the “Battle of the Sexes” match. While the loss to Billie Jean King marked a significant moment in his career, Riggs continued to engage in tennis-related events and exhibitions.

Were there any controversies surrounding Bobby Riggs’ hustling and gambling activities?

While Bobby Riggs’ hustling and gambling activities brought excitement to the tennis world, they were not without controversy. Some criticized Riggs for perpetuating stereotypes and exploiting the attention garnered by the “Battle of the Sexes” match for personal gain. Others questioned the integrity of his exhibition matches, suspecting that he may have engaged in staged outcomes to manipulate bets.

How did Bobby Riggs’ involvement in exhibition matches impact his relationships with other tennis professionals?

Bobby Riggs’ involvement in exhibition matches, particularly his challenges against notable players, created mixed reactions among tennis professionals. While some saw it as an opportunity to engage in competitive matches and earn income, others were wary of Riggs’ reputation as a hustler and gambler. The exhibition matches often divided opinions within the tennis community, leading to strained relationships between Riggs and certain players.

How is Bobby Riggs remembered in the context of tennis history?

Bobby Riggs is remembered as a charismatic and influential figure in tennis history. His accomplishments as a player, his involvement in exhibition matches, and the “Battle of the Sexes” match have solidified his place in the sport’s narrative. While his personal struggles and controversies add complexity to his legacy, Riggs is recognized as a player and personality who left a lasting impact on the game of tennis.


Bobby Riggs left a lasting legacy in the world of tennis, characterized by his early successes, his post-retirement hustling and gambling activities, and his iconic “Battle of the Sexes” match against Billie Jean King. Riggs’ contributions to the growth and popularity of tennis, as well as his willingness to challenge societal norms, have had a profound impact on the sport and gender equality in sports.

Despite his personal struggles, including gambling addiction and financial difficulties, Riggs remained involved in tennis as a commentator and coach, sharing his expertise and love for the game. His complex journey serves as a reminder of the human side of sports personalities and the enduring influence one person can have on a sport and society. Bobby Riggs’ legacy will continue to be remembered as an important chapter in the history of tennis.

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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

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