There has been talk how the upcoming presidential election between the charismatic, outspoken Donald Trump and the “on message” and serious Hillary Clinton has an uncanny similarity to tennis’ 1973 Battle of the Ages between the loud and feisty male chauvinist Bobby Riggs against the feminist trailblazer Billie Jean King. With that in mind, we approached King, just outside the Wimbledon Tea Room, where she interrupted her day to talk.
INSIDE TENNIS: You most have heard about the comparison of –
BILLIE JEAN KING: I don’t know why people aren’t talking about it more, it’s so obvious.
IT: Do you think part of it is how Hillary takes policy issues so seriously while Trump takes a different approach – is this analogous to you and Bobby?
BJK: Oh, Bobby took it seriously. His whole career was mapped out after he beat me. [His billionaire agent] Jerry Perenchio told me everything about it. He said the match ruined Bobby. He told Bobby he had to win the match. He told Bobby, “You have to win this match, because if you win the match, we will have a million-dollar match, a winner-take-all match and then you will be doing this.” He had a whole thing mapped out. Are you kidding? He took it very seriously.
IT: Is there any similarity in the approach to women that Bobby had and that Donald has? Bobby had a dismissive view of women and many have been critical of Trump’s views of women and how he looks at women.
BJK: Yes, of course. Nothing’s really changed.
IT: Billie, you were so aware of what was at stake in the “Battle of the Sexes.” What do you think is at stake in the election?
BJK: Every candidate needs to be qualified. But the thing is, if you see it, you can be it. If we have a woman president, every kid, boy and girl will be influenced by that. It’s just like having a person of color like Barack. If you are ten years old, you have only known a black President. Then if America has a woman President after him, it’s very indicative of the world, and of diversity. Actually, I hate that world “diversity.” I prefer inclusion, that’s my word. Now there are fewer white kids being born [in America] every day than kids of color. It’s indicative of what’s happening.
IT: Could it be that there is a certain fear involved? That Bobby was so afraid of the changing role of women and that they would be coming out of the kitchen and Mr. Trump is –
BJK: [The election] is definitely a battle of sexes. I just start laughing, because Donald just goes on and on and on. He’s just like Bobby. Bill, do you think he is?
IT: Yes, I think it is a remarkable analogy.
BJK: I think Donald is exactly like Bobby.
IT: Some might say it is a matter of narcissism.
BJK: You think? I think it is an incredible analogy. I did an interview with Christiane Amanpour for CNN International where I talked about his narcissism.
IT: Some have argued that he is so completely self-centered.
BJK: Well, that’s what narcissism is. You are self-centered and it’s never your fault. You know when Megyn Kelly asked Donald that softball question [about controversial things Donald had said about women], which I thought was a lob, or a semi-lob, and Donald said, “Ah, I am such a victim, I just won’t do the next debate.” But he is a really nice guy. I see him at the Open. He’s great.
IT: Just after Maria Sharapova beat Serena at the 2004 Wimbledon, I walked with Donald Trump on his LA golf course. He was very generous with his time. During our extensive interview he said, “Look at the allure of Maria’s shoulders, she has supermodel good looks. I really think that was a factor in her beating Serena. Serena was intimidated by her looks.”
BJK: No, I don’t think so. He doesn’t understand.