Tennis legend John McEnroe finds himself having to defend accurate statements about his sport again today. McEnroe was on National Public Radio over the weekend to discuss his new memoir and the state of tennis as a whole. The host of the show asked about Serena Williams--who is currently sidelined with a pregnancy--and McEnroe called her the "Greatest women's player ever"--to which the host wondered why McEnroe had to qualify Williams' status by mentioning her gender.
Now at this point, Johnny Mac has to realize that he is about to be used as a pawn in the host's agenda advancement plan. His pat answer should be "I'm sorry, I should have said that she is the 'most-accomplished tennis player ever'". With 23-singles Grand Slam titles, 14-doubles Grand Slam Titles and two mixed-doubles Grand Slam titles, this statement is as factually accurate as his initial comment--but doesn't come across as sounding like "male privilege".
But instead, McEnroe took the bait. He countered that Serena would be "ranked 700 in the world if she played on the men's tour". This might be a bit low. I'm pretty sure Serena could have been in the top 150 in her prime years (she is 35-years old now) but everyone would agree that the career numbers listed before would be zeroes if Williams had played her entire career against men.
Serena herself has admitted this in the past. Here is her direct quote from 2013 on this matter:
“For me, men’s tennis and women’s tennis are completely, almost, two separate sports,” Williams said. “If I were to play Andy Murray, I would lose 6-0, 6-0 in five to six minutes, maybe 10 minutes. No, it’s true. It’s a completely different sport. The men are a lot faster and they serve harder, they hit harder, it’s just a different game. I love to play women’s tennis. I only want to play girls, because I don’t want to be embarrassed.”
The McEnroe controversy now has the national sports shows talking about mixed field tournaments to "prove him right" or to "give women a shot"--but that is just nonsense. The same goes for a new "battle of the sexes" showdown--similar to the fixed match between 55-year old Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King in her prime back in 1973 that is somehow believed to have "advanced women's rights".
Just walk away, guys. This fight just isn't worth it.