John McEnroe has a new memoir out called But Seriously, and in an interview promoting the book, he wound up speaking about Serena Williams.
The tennis great apparently didn’t think that Williams had what it took to be the greatest tennis player in the world, not when matched up against the men in the sport.
NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro asked McEnroe about his qualifying statement that Williams was the best woman player, saying, “We’re talking about male players but there is of course wonderful female players. Let’s talk about Serena Williams. You say she is the best female player in the world in the book.”
“Best female player ever — no question,” McEnroe replied.
“Some wouldn’t qualify it, some would say she’s the best player in the world. Why qualify it?” Garcia-Navarro asked.
McEnroe replied, “Oh! Uh, she’s not, you mean, the best player in the world, period?”
“Yeah, the best tennis player in the world. You know, why say female player?” Garcia- Navarro pressed.
“Well because if she was in, if she played the men’s circuit she’d be like 700 in the world,” McEnroe said.
When pressed, he continued, “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.”