During an interview with NPR as a part of his promotional tour for his upcoming memoir titled But Seriously, John McEnroe was asked about a part in his book in which he says Serena Williams is the best female tennis player in the world. While McEnroe also believes she’s “no question” the best female player ever – this comes a couple of years after he said she’s “one of the all-time greatest athletes, period” – he feels like the qualifier is necessary because she wouldn’t be able to match up with the best male tennis players in the world.
In McEnroe’s mind, Williams would be lucky to crack the top 700 in men’s tennis.
“Well, because if she was in, if she played the men’s circuit, she’d be like 700 in the world,” McEnroe said.
“That doesn’t mean I don’t think Serena is an incredible player,” he continued. “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.”
McEnroe has talked about Williams in competition against male tennis players before. In 2015, Jimmy Kimmel asked him if he could still beat Williams in a tennis match: “My daughters are over there. I think it’s mixed. They think I probably lose to Serena. I believe that I could still take her.” In the interview, McEnroe also claimed that Donald Trump tried to set up a battle of the sexes match between Williams and McEnroe, but didn’t offer up enough money to make it happen.
McEnroe’s has praised Williams time and time again in recent years for her achievements. Lulu Garcia-Navarro, who interviewed McEnroe for NPR, also provided some food for thought on Twitter in wake of McEnroe’s opinion going viral about pitting male athletes against female athletes seeing as this isn’t the first time something like this has happened. Garcia-Navarro tweeted, “Is being the best athelete in the world about pitting men against women? By that metric women can never be best,” and , “Shouldn’t you look at exceptional performance and wins? It’s not a battle of the sexes.”
But Seriously goes on sale tomorrow.