Williams sisters fail to light up Battle of the Sexes

Maybe Bobby Riggs was right after all

Maybe Bobby Riggs was right after all. Twenty-five years after the American tennis great made his unfortunate "Battle of the Sexes" challenge to Billie Jean King, a 30-year-old German with a nicotine habit proved yesterday that women shouldn't mix it with men at professional tennis.

His victims were the teenage Williams sisters, Serena and Venus, who were keen to try their hand against the opposite sex and appealed at the Australian Open for a male professional, ranked around 200, to test themselves against.

Karsten Braasch, ranked 203 and without a tour title in 10 years of trying, answered their call.

Yesterday, after a morning round of golf, a couple of beers and half a pack of cigarettes, he met the self-styled future of the women's game. Braasch won 61 against Serena, 6-2 against Venus.


"If I was a couple of years older I might have done some real serious damage," laughed 16-year-old Serena afterwards. "Maybe I should pump a lot more weights, get stronger."

It was far removed from the original Battle of the Sexes, sparked by Riggs' declaration that women should be "barefoot and pregnant" and not playing professional tennis.

A record 30,472 people were at the Houston Astrodome that night in 1973 to watch Wimbledon champion King, then 29, beat 55-year-old double grand slam winner Riggs 6-4 6-3 6-3.

There was no money at stake in yesterday's match, just a little professional and sexual pride.

Without the backing of tour organisers it took place on court 12, the most distant from centre court, just by the railway tracks to the north-west of Melbourne Park.

There was no umpire - Braasch kept score, and unfailingly gave the women the benefit of the doubt.

Both sets ran similar courses. The stylish Braasch dominated the rallies, pushed the girls around the court and only occasionally stepped up the tempo if the going got tough.