THEY'RE billing it as "one battle of the sexes that will b...

Salmagundi

September 24, 1992

THEY'RE billing it as "one battle of the sexes that will b settled ON court" -- instead, presumably, of IN court -- but who are they kidding?

The Martina Navratilova-Jimmy Connors pay-per-view event on Friday at Caesar's Palace isn't about feminism. It isn't about two great champions fighting it out for the heck of it. It isn't about the curiosity of two "geezers at Caesar's."

This contrived tennis match is about money. Navratilova, 35, and Connors, 40, are doing it because the winner gets a half million dollars and they each get unspecified guarantees. As Connors put it, "We're doing it because it's a hell of a deal."

That's fine -- as long as everyone realizes this match is meaningless in tennis terms. Navratilova, who admits she could not beat Connors if they played straight up, will be given a handicap. She gets to hit to a side of the court with wider sidelines than usual in single's play, and Connors will be allowed one serve instead of two.

Radio advertisements proclaim that the match will settle the question once and for all of "who's the best" -- the all-time men's champ or the all-time women's champ. But does anyone really care? The prospect of a "battle of the sexes" doesn't generate tension the way it did in the early 1970s, when Bille Jean King played Bobby Riggs. And let's face it, Navratilova and Connors are both past their prime.

Even so, the event's promotors are betting that cable viewers will tune in to the tune of $24.95, and that people who want to see the match live will pay $25 to $75 for one of 14,000 seats in a stadium at the Caesar's Palace hotel parking lot.

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