Though to most women she had become a living, breathing crusade more fervid than the meat boycott, Court rejected deep meanings in the match. "I am not carrying the banner for women's lib," she said. "I've never said we deserve prize money equal to the men. I'm playing this match for me. A woman is not supposed to beat a man, so I've nothing to lose."
But some of her sisters on the tour were not so sure. "Why should we have to justify ourselves against an old, obnoxious has-been like Riggs who can't hear, can't see, walks like a duck and is an idiot besides?" said Rosie Casals in a spontaneous burst of diplomacy. King suggested Court wear "psychedelic ear plugs" to combat Riggs' jabbering and admitted, "If Margaret loses, we're in trouble. I'll have to challenge him myself."
Meanwhile Riggs was training diligently. He jogged, cut down on starches, cigars and alcohol and stuffed his face with a staggering 415 vitamin pills every day in what he called a "rejuvenation process." One friend said, "If the pills work, by Sunday Riggs will be four years old."
In addition, Riggs was in a heaven cum hell of his own making. Overnight he had become a symbol of female hatred and the leading chauvinist in 50 states plus Canada (50,000 "Bobby Riggs Bleah!" buttons were manufactured in Toronto). But he loved it. He was prancing and dancing in the limelight.
After all, this is a man whose finest hours in tennis—Wimbledon and U.S. champion in 1939—have paled beside his subsequent exploits at the gaming tables and his renowned skill at trickery. He has proudly hustled golf, Ping-Pong, dominoes, pool, craps, backgammon, gin rummy and marbles. On the court, he has played for huge stakes while buttoning an overcoat, running around chairs, lifting a bucket of water, holding a suitcase, wearing an eye patch with his arm in a sling and tugging a poodle on a leash. He has won and lost kings' ransoms many times over. The only stories he denies are that at birth his opening line was "Wanna bet?" and that he once played a set while clinging to an elephant.
But past adventures were merely preparation for the Court match. Indeed, probably his entire life cycle has been one long rehearsal for Ramona.
"Look at all these telephone messages," Riggs would crow every day in his strange, machine-gun staccato. "This match is unbelievable. The eyes and ears of the world are on me. I am the greatest money player in history. I am the finest defensive player in the game. Margaret is the biggest hitter of the girls. What a match! Nobody has a clue how it will go. The mystery of the age. What a deal!"
Later, in a fascinating non sequitur filled with all sorts of Freudian implications, Riggs angrily announced that he was playing the match out of dislike for women; that women destroyed men's egos and that he would "get back at all of them right here in beautiful San Diego Country Estates." Behind such ranting lurked an interesting history of women in his life.
As a youngster, Riggs' two most significant tennis instructors were women. He has been married and divorced twice. There is no record of his ever lacking for female companionship during his travels around the tennis globe. And last week his only daughter, 19-year-old Dolly, flew in from Florida to be constantly at his side.
Speculation grew each day as to how much Riggs had bet on the match—and, not entirely in jest, which side his money was on—but all he would say is, "I have a few customers stashed away."