A true hustler always controls his odds, naturally, and Riggs did his best to attribute all advantages to the enemy side. They were playing on Mother's Day. The surface was hard cement, better for Court to crash her dynamite power game at him. And what else? Ah, the balls. Riggs made such a production of wanting lightweight balls that finally Court, who had been practicing in Berkeley with heavy ones, agreed in absentia to a coin flip. Riggs, with face straight, called it the "Flip of the Century" and then proceeded to lose it.
When Court finally arrived at the site 48 hours before the match Riggs greeted her warmly. As photographers swarmed around, he edged closer and began his routine. Whispering, chattering, he played to the crowd while talking to Margaret, her husband Barry and even their 14-month-old son Danny.
"Psych the kid out, Bobby baby," shouted a PR guy. Court barely smiled at any of it. Riggs continued his patter and tweaked cheeks all around. Danny stuck out his tongue.
"Do you realize, Margaret, that this is the most important match ever played? Just think how many women are counting on you," said Riggs.
"Get off it, luv," said Court.
Most observers anticipated a close tussle, with Riggs pulling out all his tricks to upset Court's concentration and to zero in on her shaky nerves. "I don't want him hacking me around," she said. "But he can't be up to too much mischief or he'll make a fool of himself. On the other hand, maybe that's the idea."
Court's Sunday, Hustling Sunday, began with Danny Court throwing his mother's tennis shoe in the toilet, and deteriorated from there. In an ironic contest, where the woman was supposed to hit like a man and the man like a woman, Court seemed altogether bewildered, a lamb lost.
Beset by jitters, confused by Riggs' mixing of lobs, drops and slices, she fell apart in the beginning and never regained her composure. She connected on only 18 of 37 first serves, a shocking figure. She made 10 return errors against a serve that came up like a watermelon. And her forehand, which Riggs attacked throughout, seemed punch-drunk.
From the time Riggs, wearing a visor and mincing around like an aging Peter Pan, swept the first three games with the loss of only four points, the match dwindled into an embarrassment. Riggs reached into his "psych bag" just once—on the third point of the day—when he blooped a serve that looked as if it should be arrested for loitering. Court smacked it back for a winner, but it was one of her few solid shots and the ploy possibly shook her just enough to be effective.
Afterward, Court said she lost her rhythm early, and with it all confidence. "I didn't expect so many soft shots," she said. "We girls don't play like that."