OOAK Table Tennis Forum

A movie about tennis
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Author:  iskandar taib [ 12 Feb 2018, 02:02 ]
Post subject:  A movie about tennis


Don't know when this came out elsewhere in the world but I got to watch it yesterday. Definitely worth the time and money invested. It's about the historic match between Bobby Riggs and Billy Jean King in 1973. I love a good biopic and this was an excellent one.

Yeah, I'd heard of Billie Jean King, though I know a heckuva lot more about her now than I did yesterday morning, but who was Bobby Riggs?? Turns out he was the Tennis equivalent of Marty Reisman - he was a top-ranked player at the world and National level in the late 1940s/early 50s (about Reisman's prime as well), and was, like Reisman, a known hustler - always playing games for money, placing bets on games, etc. He even kinda LOOKS like Reisman (with the glasses but without the hat) and sorta sounds like Reisman (or Woody Allen). In the movie, he places that phone call to Billie Jean after being kicked out of his house over a car (you can see it there in the trailer) which he was - at least for the time being - living in (I suppose better than being forced to live in a Ford Pinto). You can apparently do such things (live in your car) in California, it doesn't get too cold (though I imagine it might get pretty hot in the car in the daytime). I love this look at the 1970s... everyone had huge heads of hair, and were driving Cutlass Supremes and Ford LTDs... and smoking. Even the guys with the short haircuts had, um, longer short haircuts. Another difference was back then you only needed to carry two or three rackets with you onto the court (do you see what Nadal brings these days..) and the rackets all seemed to be wood (none of those huge HEAD Brand rackets yet, it seems).

What blew me away was finding out that that was Emma Stone as Billie Jean King. Good grief. I've seen her in three other movies so far - that Spiderman movie, the Birdman movie and in La La Land.. and I thought I'd recognize her anywhere. Turns out I was wrong. Maybe it was the hair and glasses, but I don't think so. Just fantastic acting. Sarah Silverman's in it as well (very appropriately as Gladys Heldman, the hard-talking tough-as-nails Jewish lady who ran the pro tour the women started because the established tournaments were paying the women 1/8 of the men's prize money).

What WAS disappointing was the tennis. These days we're all used to watching Wimbledon on television, the television people have had years of experimentation with camera locations and such, so what they showed in the movie was quite disappointing. Everything looked foreshortened, all the action seemed to be taking place at half speed. None of those breathtaking fast serves that just nick the corner. I think they could have easily improved on this with better camera work and by hiring a couple of consultants from ESPN, even if the tennis doubles weren't world class players. The tactics used were as the Wikipedia page describes them, though - Riggs was a lobber (not really sure how lobbers actually manage to win tennis games, I always thought it was a defense against someone who's moved up to the net) and managed to beat Margaret Court in an earlier match, but Billie Jean adapted by staying close to the baseline and running him around. He was 56 in 1973, King was 29. That match where Riggs won the car, though... that was something to see. He had to beat someone while holding onto four dogs on leashes.

I wonder if Reisman would ever have been induced, in the 2000s, to play any of the top Chinese women from that era for a large prize. Probably, don't think it would have taken much - though, of course, there'd have been problems getting the Chinese women to do it. I don't think he'd have come close to beating them, hardbat or no hardbat.


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