John McEnroe double faults with non-apology for Serena Williams comment

He refused to apologize, but was self-deprecating about his own abilities

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published June 27, 2017 10:55AM (EDT)

John McEnroe (CBS)
John McEnroe (CBS)

Bristly tennis star John McEnroe attempted to improve his public image after finding himself in the midst of controversy for claiming that Serena Williams would be "like 700 in the world" if she played the men's circuit.

During his appearance on "CBS This Morning," McEnroe refused to apologize for his comments but insisted he did not expect them to be controversial. At one point, when asked where he would rank himself on the men's circuit, McEnroe requested clarification.

"Now are you asking me, at 58 years of age, what I'd be ranked in the tour if I had to play best of five, which is what the men have to do at majors?"

When this was confirmed, he speculated that "I would currently be about 1200 in the world."

Later, when asked to rank the world's greatest tennis players, McEnroe seemed to throw a bone to his critics by making sure Williams' name appeared on his list.

"My rankings would be Roger [Federer], Rafael [Nadal] close second, Rod Laver who is my idol, then I'd throw Pete Sampras in, he's the greatest fast court player," McEnroe said.

Then he added, "Serena Williams at five," prompting laughs from the hosts.

In his comments over the weekend, McEnroe claimed that "if she played the men’s circuit she’d be like 700 in the world." He had clarified that "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."

Williams — who appears naked and pregnant on the cover of Vanity Fair this week — responded to McEnroe with a pair of tweets that politely asked him to avoid attaching her name to opinions which she may not share herself.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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