Originally published Sept. 13, 1973
HILTON HEAD, S.C. — Frank Brennan wants Bobby Riggs tested after he plays Billie Jean King. Blood, saliva, urine, Frank Brennan doesn't care which.
"The guy is taking 413 pills a day," Frank Brennan mutters. "How many of those could be uppers? And if the guy is taking some kind of drugs, it's going to be tough to wear him down."
Frank Brennan figures that that's the way Billie Jean King will beat Riggs, wearing him down until he moves and reacts like a 55-year old man.
Frank Brennan is a tennis coach. He was Billie Jean King's coach for years, first spotting her as a "fat little kid" in a tournament at South Orange, N.J.
He is still teaching tennis and will coach the Baltimore entry in World Team Tennis. He's got a round, beefy face that turns the color of a stoplight when he's in the sun too much.
He was in the tropical sun a lot the past couple of days, watching an orgy of classic tennis, eight of the very best players in the world competing in a videotaped tournament for showing in April on ABC-TV.
Billie Jean played when she wasn't getting pokes and checked by the Hilton Head Island medics, who decided she had low blood sugar and prescribed candy bars as prematch nourishment.
All she needed was a curl in the middle of her forehead. She was very, very good in the doubles and so bad she was horrible in the singles, where she lost to Chris Evert.
It was her last competitive tennis before her televised Bonnie vs. Clyde match with Riggs next Thursday in Houston. Now, all she needs to do is sharpen her game and clog her eardrums.
"He's just like Muhammad Ali," Brennan said, snearing. "Ali will try to psych a guy in the dressing room or at the weigh-in. If Riggs can get to you before a match, he's got you.
"But Billie Jean is quick enough on her feet and with her tongue to keep up with him. I recommended that she walk out for the match with giant-sized ear muffs. You know, an obvious put-on. That just might be enough to swing things her way."
There are experts who say Riggs can swing things his way with his smorgasbord of strokes, that he has too many shots for Billie Jean.
"Too many years," snorts Brennan, "to make 'em the way he used to. Besides, Billie Jean has every shot in the book, too. And she's more flexible.
"Billie Jean should win. What happened to Margaret Court doesn't apply. They are two different personalities. Margaret's an introvert, Billie is an extrovert.
"Billie gets up better for a big match. Margaret gets more tense. The thing is, a lot of players have the strokes...most all of then run good...so what it comes down to is guts, ego, and maybe being a little bitchy."
Brennan is 58, and still runs a tough, no-nonsense tennis camp at Mercersburg Academy. He spotted King 14 years ago.
"She was playing Maria Bueno, who was number one. She wasn't scared of anybody. I went to see Maria and wound up thinking about the kid she played. We talked, we corresponded, and the next year when she came East she stayed with us.
"I had a feeling about her the first day I saw her. Lots of kids say 'I want to be a champion' but she looked you in the eye and meant it. She had great wheels, good desire, strength and enough Tomboy to throw baseballs and footballs.
"Aaaaaah, it's not always how strong you look. Chris Evert is short and feminine. It's what's inside, the things that don't show. That's what counts.
"I was sure Billie would be a champion after she beat Margaret Court at Wimbledon in the first round when Margaret was seeded number one.
"Billie Jean wrote me a letter saying she went berserk when she found out she had to play Margaret...9000 miles to meet her in the first round. But she played her and she beat her. She said the crowd spurred her on.
"Sure, Riggs has been a money player all his life and he's gonna be tough. But Billie can handle him. All she has to do is keep her head and not listen to his crap."
The old coach is recommending ear muffs for Billie Jean and a saliva test for Bobby Riggs. "Aaaaaah," he said, "maybe the publicity about a possible test would scare him, make him stop taking stuff if he's been taking stuff."
The old coach wants to leave no stone unturned.