For the last eight years, Riggs has lived at the Sea Bluff condominiums near Old Highway 101 and La Costa avenue in Leucadia. Shortly after Sea Bluff was built, the developers offered Riggs free use of a condo for a condo for a year if he would live there. He agreed, then liked the condo so much he offered to buy it. They gave it to him for $85,000, and it's probably worth three times that today.
Though Bobby says he liked Leucadia because he could sit on his porch and watch the waves break below him, other people say he chose Leucadia because of its proximity to L Costa, where there is a constant supply of wealthy quests willing to drop $200 or $300 for the chance to tell their friends back home they got out hustled by Bobby Riggs. "Instead of saying, 'Oh, here comes Bobby working his hustle again." a friend explained, "there are always new faces at La Costa willing to play him." Last year the management at La Costa fired one of their club pros after he was arrested on bookmaking charges (which were later dismissed", and it is said that they asked Bobby to keep his betting at La Costa under control. No one at La Costa would confirm this story, though they admitted Riggs's reputation as a gambler is well known. Regardless, lately Riggs has been playing his tennis just down the road from La Costa at the Olympic Resort Hotel, at El Camino Real and Palomar Airport Road, where he has a free membership.
Because San Diego County has so many tennis courts and tennis players, it's like a gold mine to Riggs, and he works it like a hard-rock miner. His son, Larry, who lives in La Costa, recalls days when his father would start at Point Loma Tennis Club and work his way north through La Joiia and Del Mar. he would play for ten, twenty, or maybe 50 dollars a set, sometimes dropping a set or two just to sucker a player in, then doubling the bet. By the time he finished, under the lights at La Costa, he had played maybe sixteen sets of tennis and left a trail of plucked pigeons behind him. For payment, he had a pocketful of cash, IOUs, and even automobile pink slips.
Some people say Riggs might be the best handicapper in the history of tennis. He has a talent for assessing the skills of his opponents, then arranging various gimmicks to make the game seems to be equal (though actually in his favor). He might ask for , or give, points going into a match. Who gets first serve is negotiable, too, or he might think up some stunt such as placing chairs on the court as obstacles for him to play around. Sometimes his handicaps have a more theatrical flair: in Las Vegas he once played two lesser-skilled opponents at the same time, while he held a sack full of silver dollars in one hand. The winner in that match (Bobby, naturally) got to keep the silver, Another time he played with a leashed poodle on his wrist.
Lately, though, Bobby's age is enough of a handicap in itself, and as the doubles match at the Olympics developed, it became clear that he and his son were going to have to come up with a miracle to pull it out. Bobby still had most of his shots: a good backhand, an overhead, and a lob. He had good hand control and a fine touch. Even more importantly, he had that merciless ability to spot his opponent's weakness, then pick away at it. But today that wasn't enough. "What's the score?" he growled. "Five-two," Larry Riggs answered. "Christ, they're killing' us," Boddy moaned.
Just off the court, Bobby's girlfriend, Miriam, sat bouncing Bobby's year-old grandson, Robby, on her knee. For a diversion, while he caught his breath, Bobby walked over and made goo-goo eyes at the boy. It was very touching, but nobody on the court was fooled by the ruse. "He'll try every trick in the book," Honda sighed, shaking his head.
Miriam, a blond, athletic tennis player of thirty-three, met Bobby about four years ago in Hawaii, where she worked as a club pro. "Of course I knew who he was a long time before that," she said. "I had watched him play in the Billy Jean King match back in 1973, not long after I was out of high school." They share the condominium in Leucadia now. When her parents come to visit them, Bobby finds it amusing to call her father "Dad," even though Riggs is several years older than he.
Riggs has been married twice, divorced twice, and has fathered six children. The life of a professional tennis player meant being away from home most of the time, and even today Riggs can recite the string of tournaments that were on the pro circuit of the 1940s like the scenes of a recurring dream. "The grass-court circuit started at the Nassau Bowl on Long Island, then we went to Boston for the Longwood Bowl, then to Seabright, then to Southampton, then to Rye, then to Newport, then the national double at Forest Hills — those were all grass-court tournaments, and they're all done away with now," Later, when he quit professional tennis and took up quit professional tennis and took up the life of a hotel promoter, gambler, and hustler, his second wife, Priscilla, sent him to a psychiatrist to try to cure him of his gambling habits, which she considered undignified and a poor example for their children. But after the third session, Bobby had the shrink pitching cards in a with him, and Bobby's second divorce soon followed.
After Bobby and his son had lost the doubles set, 6-4, he grabbed Honda by the shirt and said, I'll play you one set, double or nothing — but I got a bad wrist, so you gotta give me first serve." "Okay," Honda shrugged. "Let's play."