John McEnroe responds to criticism of his Serena Williams comment

John McEnroe, the seven-time Grand Slam winner and recent author, made news on Monday when his comments from an NPR interview about Serena Williams went viral. Tuesday morning, McEnroe expanded on this interview on the Dan Patrick Show.

“I love Serena,” McEnroe said. “They forget the others, all the other nice things I’ve said about her.” 

McEnroe said that he was surprised at all the attention he received for saying that if Williams “played the men’s circuit she’d be like 700 in the world.” 

He stressed that he did not choose to bring up Serena in the NPR interview and told Patrick that he considers Williams “truly one of the great athletes in the last 100 years.”

Williams tweeted Monday night in response to McEnroe’s initial comments, asking him “please please keep me out of your statements that are not factually based” and “respect me and my privacy as I’m trying to have a baby.”



In regards to the tweets, McEnroe said he is not on Twitter, but he does not understand why people  “have a problem” with what he said. He said he doesn’t understand why men and women are constantly compared in tennis, but “not in other sports.”

People have tried to pay him large sums of money to play other athletes, including Williams, in tennis, McEnroe said, but he has never accepted. He added that he holds great respect for Williams and credits her and her sister Venus Williams for increasing the popularity of tennis in America.

“Without Serena and to a lesser extent Venus, the sport of tennis in America would really be struggling,” he said. “Her story is one of the greatest story in tennis history, the sister.”

McEnroe also joked with Dan Patrick about the “700 in the world” comment, saying that he would buy Serena 700 roses as a baby gift.

A transcript of McEnroe’s comments from the NPR interview is below:

NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro: 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.

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.

Garcia-Navarro: You think so?

McEnroe: Yeah. 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.