Rosie Casals talks tennis, ‘Battle of the Sexes’ and more in Q&A

Rosie Casals teamed with Billie Jean King to form one of the most successful duos in sports history.  During her career, Casals won 90 tournaments and was a big force behind many changes that took place in women’s tennis during the 1960s and 1970s.

A Coachella Valley resident, Casals will be conducting a Q&A after the 6:45 pm screening of the new film Battle of the Sexes this Friday, September 29 at the River in Rancho Mirage (the movie at  Cinemark, the Q& A after at Acqua).  She will discuss her legendary career, the match between Billie Jean King and Bobbie Riggs (which she broadcasted with Howard Cosell), and the film.

Rosie Casals was kind enough to let us ask her a few questions in advance of the event.

Cactus Hugs: I want to start with the film, as well, that’s the thing that’s coming out on Friday. As someone who was such a part of that 1973 match, how do you feel about how the story is told on the big screen?

Rosie Casals: I believe that the essence of the times and what we were fighting for was properly portrayed. There were certain creative liberties taken but all in all it told the Battle of The Sexes, the Original 9, Billie Jean, and Gladys Heldman leading the women toward the start of Professional Women’s Tour the Virginia Slims Circuit.

Rosie Casals joins the cast of Battle of the Sexes

CH: You called the match with Howard Cosell from the Astrodome. What was the mood like in the stadium?

RC: The mood in the Houston Astrodome was was a circus with people….celebrities, media, photographers, the tennis community, fans..everybody who was anybody was there!! IT WAS ENORMOUS!! It was exciting and scary at the same time.

CH: Speaking of covering the event with Cosell, looking back at the coverage, watching it today he comes off as, well, just kind of creepy and out of touch – to me anyway. What was that experience like for you?

RC: Cosell was the biggest thing in TV and ABC Wide World of Sports and he ruled his world. He was a chauvenist and he knew nothing about tennis and I don’t think he cared much about working with women, especially outspoken women like me….so it wasn’t a comfortable telecast but I said my piece when I needed to!!

CH: The film is coming out at a time when many people are wondering just how far we have come in regards to chauvinism and gender equality issues. What do you hope people take away after seeing this film?

RC: I hope the new generation of women realize that the fight for equality is not over. We need to still change the way women are treated in the workforce and in sports still. Billie Jean made a great comment…she said women get 79 cents to a dollar so they should only work 79% of the time.

I loved that comment and really think that today’s generation needs to continue what was started in the 70’s and women’s lib. Maybe ALL WOMEN need to take one day off from work to show solidarity like the NFL!! I hope women and men take away the notion that they would be better working together and that it isn’t just a women’s issue. This new generations needs to carry the baton to the end…when all is equal to everyone!!

CH: You attended the premier of the film last week in Hollywood. How was that experience?

RC: It was great that she asked the producers of the film to include the Original 9 in the movie. It was,a treat for us to walk the Red Carpet at the Premier last week in LA and also meet the cast. I met my double Natalie Morales (who portrays Casals in the film)…taller and prettier…I don’t mind that!!

Rosie Casals and Natalie Morales at the Battle of the Sexes premiere

CH: You and Billy Jean King formed one of the most successful duos in sports history (the only doubles team to have won U.S. titles on grass, clay, indoor, and hard surfaces). What would you say is the key to your success and do you have any advice for anyone forming or working in a partnership, in the sports world or otherwise?

RC: BJK’s and my partnership was special. We believed in each other and were confident in one another. She was always more demonstrative and I less so we had balance and the same goals…but most importantly we were friends and had respect for each other. Even after all these years we remain very close friends and allies. She was our figure head and leader then and seems to be now..but I’m also known as the General in Command!!

CH: Can you tell me a little bit about the foundation you have in the Coachella Valley?

RC: I along with fellow tour playet Tory Fretz established the Love & Love Tennis Foundation to promote growth and youth tennis in the Coachella Valley. We want to expose more kids to tennis and provide financial Grants to grassroots organizations or individual who enhance youth tennis in the desert.

A big thank you to Rosie Casals for taking the time to chat with us.  Be sure to check out “Battle of the Sexes” in theaters now.