Laver Cup Press Conference

Tennis legend and current ESPN commentator John McEnroe has a new book out called But Seriously, which follows his first memoir, You Cannot Be Serious. McEnroe has been out promoting the book, and of course he was asked about the state of tennis today. It’s an exciting time for tennis, honestly – the years when Novak Djokovic dominated everything were sort of boring, and the resurgence of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have made everything so much more interesting. There’s a lot of stuff happening in the women’s game too, especially with Serena Williams leaving a huge vacuum with her maternity leave this year. McEnroe chatted with NPR several days ago about all of that and more. He was asked about Serena’s status as (arguably, or not so much) the greatest player in the Open Era, versus Serena as the unquestionable greatest female player of all time. This is what happened:

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.
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?
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?
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?
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.

[From NPR]

At one point, McEnroe calls himself a feminist and Garcia-Navarro is like “what?” and he says, “Maybe at some point a women’s tennis player can be better than anybody. I just haven’t seen it in any other sport, and I haven’t seen it in tennis. I suppose anything’s possible at some stage.” The whole thing is a garbage take, but this isn’t even the first time that McEnroe has bitched about Serena Williams and female tennis players in general – he really does not have respect for women in tennis, and he honestly believes that the #1 woman in the world (whoever she is at the time) would be beaten by any man in the top 700. Which is garbage.

Anyway, Serena Williams heard about McEnroe’s comments and she tweeted this:

I think Serena just called John McEnroe fake news. She was basically like: John McEnroe better take my name out of his mouth right now. And he should. But I doubt he will. There’s something insidious about McEnroe’s train of thought, that female players will always be second-class because many would struggle to beat male players. It’s like McEnroe is telling men – bros, really – that the women’s game isn’t as exciting or interesting or as difficult. When there are men around the world who love watching women’s tennis, including many men in the top rankings of the ATP.

Pregnant Serena Williams at Roland Garros

Photos courtesy of WENN.