Despite the original concept of the Battle of the Belgians being ditched after Justine Henin pull out injured, promoter Bob Verbeeck succeeded in his ambition of breaking the long standing attendance record set 37 years ago in the Battle of the Sexes match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs.
A crowd 35,681 packed into Brussel’s King Baudouin Stadium on Thursday night to watch reigning US Open champion Kim Clijsters defeat Henin’s substitute Serena Williams who successfully retained her Wimbledon title five days earlier.
Clijsters triumphed over Williams 6-3, 6-2 but the score was largely irrelevant. What really mattered was the attendance record that surpassed the previous record of 30,472 set in 1973 at the Houston Astrodome when King faced off against Riggs.
There was not quite the same opulent sense of excess as was seen all those years ago at Houston and neither player followed Billie Jean’s example of being carried onto court in the Cleopatra style by four bare-chested muscle men dressed in the garb of ancient slaves.
However Martina Navratilova, winner of 18 major singles titles, acted as umpire.
Williams played despite suffering from a foot injury she picked up during her arduous campaign at the All England Club that also saw her reach the quarterfinals of the Ladies Doubles alongside sister Venus .
Henin was forced to withdraw after ironically injuring her elbow when facing Clijsters in the fourth round at Wimbledon.
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