The famous "Battle of the Sexes" match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs took place almost exactly 40 years ago.
While it's unlikely that the intensity and hostility involved of that match will be seen again, a new "Battle of the Sexes" will take place on Friday between women's star Li Na and men's No. 1 Novak Djokovic.
According to the China Open's official website, the match will celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the tournament. All profits will go to a Chinese youth tennis development program, according to Sun Xiaochen of ChinaDaily.com..
While the match between King and Riggs was about man vs. woman, the Li-Djokovic match is for fun. Li is a hero in China as the only Chinese woman to win a Grand Slam title in tennis. It's only natural that she will be heavily involved in the opening of the 10th China Open.
Some fans will take the match seriously, but that isn't the intention. It's an exhibition to showcase and aid tennis in China. It will still entertain fans in attendance.
Here is a closer look at what you can expect out of the Li vs. Djokovic match on Friday.
Where: Diamond Court at National Tennis Center in Beijing, China
When: Friday, Sept. 27 at 7:30 a.m. ET (7:30 p.m. Beijing time)
Li and Djokovic are big-time competitors, and they want to win every match, whether it counts for something or not. They're going to put in effort, but the match obviously isn't going to rival a Grand Slam clash in terms of intensity.
Even so, Li and Djokovich have exchanged some friendly banter in recent days. According to SI.com, there has been a bit of trash talk on blog site Weibo recently, which was initiated by Djokovic.
“Haha, are you ready to play me?” Djokovic said.
Li responded and suggested that she may have the formula necessary to give Djokovic a run for his money. “Don’t be happy too early,” Li joked. “I have a plan for the game. It is not certain who will be the winner and the loser.”
Both Li and Djokovic have great personalities, so it isn't particularly surprising to see them having fun with this event. Fans should expect similar antics during the match itself as they will almost certainly play to the crowd.
Although it figures to be a partisan crowd in favor of Li, Djokovic is popular across the world as well, so there will be plenty of support for both players. As long as fans don't take things too seriously, this will be a great match to watch.
Unlike the original "Battle of the Sexes," this won't be a normal match. Other factors will level the playing field. Few male players can hang with Djokovic and Li is only the No. 5-ranked female player. Under normal circumstance, the Serb would wipe the floor with her.
Djokovic has been the No. 1-ranked player in the world for an incredible 100 consecutive weeks, according to ATP World Tour on Twitter.
According to ChinaOpen.com, one addition is the involvement of four Chinese junior players. They will play with Li and Djokovic during the first two sets. Also, some points will have donations on the line, so there is incentive for Li, Djokovic and the juniors to succeed.
Other rules will favor Li, although they have not been announced. Man vs. woman exhibitions aren't unprecedented, so there are some options. One possibility is that Djokovic will only have one serve. The court could also be expanded to allow Li to hit into the doubles area on either side.
Head-to-Head Third Set
Following the first two sets, the juniors will leave, and it will just be Li vs. Djokovic in the third. Again, some rule modifications will give Li a better chance to compete, but it will be a head-to-head affair. It's likely that the competitive juices will be flowing in this set much more so than in the first two.
Will modified rules make a difference in this exhibition match?
It will be interesting to see how the potential rule changes will alter things. If Li is granted access to the doubles lines, it will increase her margin of error in the third set. But Djokovic is one of the most athletic players in the world, and he can get to pretty much any ball. Getting just one serve might force him to favor accuracy over power.
It's hard to imagine Djokovic being challenged too much. He won't necessarily have a killer instinct against Li, though, and he may purposely extend some points in order to give the fans what they want.
Everyone wants to see a match that is at least somewhat competitive, and "Djoker" knows that. Djokovic is going to come away victorious, however, Li will have her moments to shine as well.
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