In 1973, Billie Jean King made history when she beat men's player Bobby Riggs in 'The Battle of the Sexes' at the Houston Astrodome. The match, that the former World Number 1 won in straights, has become the subject of a documentary. Bobby Riggs was 26 years older than King at that point. If you had to have a re-match of the Battle of the Sexes today, I cannot think of any name barring Serena Williams, who could feature in it.
King's achievement of course was massively symbolic. Founder of the Women's Tennis Association (WTA), she fought for equal pay for women players at Wimbledon last year. But looking simply from the point of view of the quality of women's tennis that's on offer these days, is it a fair thing to do? I ask that question, being a woman myself. Yes the women train equally hard, and equality is a great principle, (going by that logic shouldn't the ladies not play 5-setters too?) but the women's game is strangely stagnant today. Let me admit here that I watch women's tennis only during Grand Slams. I don't bother to keep track of other WTA events through the year that closely, because it's just not great to watch.
Blame it on having grown up watching Steffi Graf, Martina Navratilova, Monica Seles, Gabriela Sabatini, if you must. And blame it on broadcasters replaying those classics in the build- up to this year's Wimbledon. It makes you realize that there's just one way today's women know of playing tennis. Sending the ball across the net like a bullet. And that's not a particularly pretty sight. It's almost robotic, and hence not interesting to watch at all. No wonder then that the Number 1 world ranking also had become a bit of a joke till a couple of years back. Caroline Wozniacki, Jelena Jankovic and Dinara Safina all held that spot without having won a single Grand Slam.