Last year John McEnroe got himself in a heap of trouble by making what many perceived to be a very controversial statement about Serena Williams in an interview with NPR. Here is an excerpt from that interview with Lulu Garcia-Navarro:
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.
Williams took to her defense on Twitter the following day...
To McEnroe's defense I think he is right and I do not think he was being disrespectful or, invading Serena's privacy. As a player McEnroe won 7 Grand Slam singles titles and attained the number one ranking in the world. Since retiring from the game in 1994 (singles) McEnroe has spent hundreds if not thousands of hours announcing and analyzing tennis matches. His grasp of the game is very strong. Williams is amazing. She is the greatest female tennis player ever. But, she could not handle the strength and speed of the men's game. Sorry.