Recently, John McEnroe attracted criticism from all quarters for saying Serena Williams would be ranked 700 in the world if she played on the ATP tour. The 23 Grand Slam winner responded by saying McEnroe should respect her privacy, and not make statements that are not proven factually.

This is not the first time McEnroe has courted controversy. It is apparent that he likes grabbing attention, and his playing days where filled with outbursts against the umpire.

To be fair to McEnroe, those words were put into his mouth by the interviewer. Take a look at the transcript.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: We’re talking about male players, but there [are] 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.

MCENROE: Best female player ever — no question.



GARCIA-NAVARRO: Some wouldn’t qualify it; some would say she’s the best player in the world. Why qualify it?



MCENROE: Oh! Uh, she’s not, you mean, the best player in the world, period?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah, the best tennis player in the world. You know, why say female player?

MCENROE: Well, because if she was in, if she played the men’s circuit, she’d be, like, 700 in the world.

It’s clear that McEnroe has the utmost respect for Williams, but being a legendary player himself, he realizes the quality gap between the ATP and WTA tour. Even Serena agrees to that, and she had said the same thing in an interview with David Letterman. “If I were to play Andy Murray, I would lose, 6-0, 6-0, in five to six minutes, maybe 10 minutes. The men are a lot faster, they serve harder, they hit harder,” she said.

Well, even though that claim might be true, Serena can actually serve as fast as some of the best male Tennis players. Her fastest recorded serve is 206.4 km/h, which is close to what some of the top male tennis players produce. It’s a different matter that serving is only a small part of the game, and factors like endurance in rallies, court coverage speed and ability to hit booming forehands also comes into play. In fact, Roger Federer who is regarded as the greatest player of all time, doesn’t feature anywhere in the top 30 fastest serves recorded by male players.

Another way to prove McEnroe right would be to look back to Australian Open 1998. Both Serena Williams and Venus Williams had proclaimed that they could beat anyone outside the top 200 on the men’s circuit. Karsten Braasch, who was ranked 203rd, took the challenge and beat Serena 6-1 in the first set, and Venus 6-2 in the second set. This, despite him being accused of smoking cigarettes and drinking booze on a regular basis.

All said and done, McEnroe should have perhaps chosen his words more carefully, but you can’t accuse him of being disrespectful. Tennis is not like horseriding, where men and women can compete against each other. So let’s not get there. As we said in one of our earlier articles, Roger Federer is hands down the greatest Tennis player ever – no argument. Even McEnroe in his prime wouldn’t stand a chance against him, considering the sport has become so much more physical, and the racquets have become so much more powerful.

Serena Williams, to her credit, is the greatest female Tennis player ever. There is nothing sexist about this. In fact, if you say Serena is the greatest ever, you’re being extremely unfair to Roger.