The fact that Riggs wiped out an extremely nervous Mrs. Court on Mother's Day and then Court beat King the last time they met (in the final of a tournament in Nashville), or the lesser-known fact that young woman pro Tory Fretz once beat Riggs in an informal match, has not seemed to dampen anyone's enthusiasm for the upcoming extravaganza. Van der Meer, who coached Court at courtside and will do the same for King, said Court was so nervous against Riggs that she could barely hold on to her racket. Van der Meer lost $500 on the match but plans to make a wager on King "out of loyalty."
"She can only win if she can overpower him," said Van der Meer. "She can't outsteady him, she's gotta go in. He's a counterpuncher and Billie Jean is going to have to take the net with him. She must cut off his passing shots; she must serve well. Court's service was very nervous."
Does the prospect of King volleying at the net scare Riggs? Not on your bottle of Geritol.
"Beautiful, I hope she does that," he said. "That's the way I prefer to play her. The rallies are shorter. I'll be able to last the distance that way. She won't wear me down and tire me out and she'll rush herself into so many mistakes she won't believe it. If I can't pass her, I can sure lob her. There's no wind to blow out my lobs; I'll have pinpoint accuracy. I can go as high as 400 feet and still have room to spare at the Astrodome.
"It doesn't matter, I figure I can play her four or five different ways. Play her from the backcourt, play her from the net.... I have a lot of options, but I'll probably let her start the action and I'll just find the answer to anything she does."
"Bobby's going to win," agreed Pancho Segura, longtime touring pro now settled down in Southern California. "It's only one match. Bobby's going to beat the kid. She's never going to be able to handle him in one match. He's got all the shots. He hasn't got the speed anymore but everything else is there.
" Billie Jean's only hope is to tire him out, run him around if she can control things. She's got a better chance than the other girl because they're playing at night."
And what does nighttime have to do with it?
"Bobby doesn't see too well, anyhow," Segura said, "and when you get over 50 and you're playing at night under the lights, they bother everybody. When you look up, the light reflects off your glasses. That's hell."
Pancho neglected to mention that King wears glasses, too.