John McEnroe Says Serena Williams Would Be Ranked ‘Like 700’ on Men’s Tour

Abby West
Senior Editor
Yahoo Celebrity
John McEnroe made a seemingly belittling statement about Serena Williams that the world champ has now made clear she is not happy about. (Photo: AP Images/Getty Images)
John McEnroe made a seemingly belittling statement about Serena Williams that the world champ has now made clear she is not happy about. (Photo: AP Images/Getty Images)

Former tennis star John McEnroe has a reputation for being a bit of a provocateur — on the tennis court and off. So it’s no surprise that his new memoir, But Seriously, is making headline-grabbing claims (such as that Andy Warhol hampered his sex life) or that his press tour for said memoir is also giving him ample opportunities to stir the pot. That is exactly what he did during an NPR interview when talking about Serena Williams.

McEnroe, a seven-time major singles champion, referenced Williams as the number one women’s player in the world, to which NPR Weekend host Lulu Garcia-Navarro asked, “Why qualify it?”

“Well because … if she played the men’s circuit, she’d be like 700 in the world,” McEnroe, 58, said. “That doesn’t mean I don’t think Serena is an incredible player. I do, but the reality of what would happen would be I think something that perhaps it’d be a little higher, perhaps it’d be a little lower. And on a given day, Serena could beat some players. I believe because she’s so incredibly strong mentally that she could overcome some situations where players would choke ’cause she’s been in it so many times, so many situations at Wimbledon, The U.S. Open, etc. But if she had to just play the circuit — the men’s circuit — that would be an entirely different story.”

UPDATE: Monday evening, Williams tweeted her displeasure at McEnroe’s assessment of where she would place. “Dear John, I adore and respect you but please please keep me out of your statements that are not factually based,” she wrote. “I’ve never played anyone ranked “there” nor do I have time. Respect me and my privacy as I’m trying to have a baby. Good day sir.”

McEnroe’s response also sparked a lot of backlash from Williams fans, and even Garcia-Navarro weighed in on whether we should be comparing the two. “Is being the best athelete in the world about pitting men against women? By that metric women can never be best,” she tweeted. “Shouldn’t you look at exceptional performance and wins? It’s not a battle of the sexes.”

When Williams, 35, was asked about a potential exhibition match against Andy Murray a few years ago, she agreed that women’s and men’s tennis are “almost, two separate sports.”

“If I were to play Andy Murray, I would lose 6-0, 6-0 in five to six minutes, maybe 10 minutes. No, it’s true. It’s a completely different sport,” she said. “The men are a lot faster and they serve harder, they hit harder, it’s just a different game. I love to play women’s tennis. I only want to play girls, because I don’t want to be embarrassed.”

But she clearly does not think she would be ranked anywhere near 700 and her diehard fans insist that the seven-months pregnant Williams, who won her 23rd Grand Slam six months ago (yes, do that math), still has something over the men. “When he wins a Grand Slam in his first trimester, he may resume talking,” wrote one fan of McEnroe.

And McEnroe, who otherwise had nothing but praise for Williams, joked that his age and Williams’ pregnancy might put them on equal footing now, whichever way you look at it.

“I mean my kids don’t think I can beat her anymore,” he said. “Maybe I should get her now because she’s pregnant.”

And the battle of the sexes continues.

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