The Battle of the Sexes Hits UK Cinemas

A new documentary charts the early days of women's professional tennis, with WTA heroine Billie Jean King leading the way.

Published June 25, 2013 12:00

The Battle of the Sexes Hits UK Cinemas
The Battle of the Sexes

As well as the 40th anniversary of the WTA, which is being recognized by the season-long 40 LOVE celebration, 2013 marks four decades since another watershed: the infamous 'Battle of the Sexes' showdown between Billie Jean King and the hustling chauvinist Bobby Riggs.

Timed to perfection a terrific new documentary, The Battle of the Sexes, is set to hit UK cinemas this week — with other international release dates to follow.

The film looks at the birth of women's professional tennis, including the formation of the WTA, against the backdrop of the flourishing women's liberation movement in the early 1970s. As the title suggests, it climaxes with the dramatic, high-stakes King vs. Riggs encounter at the Houston Astrodome on September 20, 1973.

"Billie Jean King is one of the all-time greats, she's one of the superstars, she's ready for the big one, but she doesn't stand a chance against me, women's tennis is so far beneath men's tennis," opined 55-year-old Riggs ahead of the match. "I want to prove that women are lousy, they stink, they don't belong on the same court as a man."

Still, it was 29-year-old King who would record an inspirational and empowering victory in front of 30,000 screaming fans, also watched by a worldwide television audience of an estimated 100 million people.

In addition to King, the documentary features interviews with iconic figures such as Margaret Court, Chris Evert, Virginia Wade and Betty Stove, as well as Original 9 members Rosie Casals, Nancy Richey, Julie Heldman, Judy Dalton, Peaches Bartkowicz and Valerie Ziegenfuss, who sat before the cameras during their reunion at last year's Family Circle Cup in Charleston.

Current superstars Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova and Caroline Wozniacki also share their thoughts on King and the other trailblazing women who helped create the global tour they compete on today.

The film enjoyed its world premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival on Friday, June 21, with King in attendance.

And on the evening of Wednesday, June 26, the WTA is co-sponsoring a red carpet gala screening at Vue Cinema in London's Leicester Square, the home to high profile movie premieres in the British capital. Several stars of the production are set to join King at the event, along with other women who've lit up the WTA over the past four decades.

Ahead of the release, King has engaged in a busy round of publicity, including appearances on the BBC's prime time The One Show, Radio 4's Women's Hour and ITV's popular daytime panel chat show, Loose Women. The WTA legend has also given many interviews to key main stream and tennis press, talking about the film and the organization that is one of her many great legacies. "I'd say for the most part, today's players are living our dream," said King.

Directed by James Erskine and Zara Hayes for London-based New Black Films, The Battle of the Sexes boasts inspired use of social and tennis archive footage and a rousing contemporary soundtrack, hits from Aretha Franklin, John Lennon, Diana Ross And The Supremes and Helen Reddy bringing the tumultuous 1970s to life. It is being released in cinemas across the UK by Kaleidoscope Entertainment.

To follow the film's progress to a cinema new you, like the official BOTS Facebook page (www.facebook.com/BOTSfilm) and follow on Twitter @BOTSfilm.

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