Serena Williams is arguably the greatest ‘female’ player in the game. But where does she rank, irrespective of gender? John McEnroe expressed his opinion, opening up a Pandora’s Box in the process.
As good as 700
McEnroe believes Serena will not be able to cut it on the men’s ATP Tour, and will be ranked around 700. Now, McEnroe is one of the greats of tennis and one of the shrewdest analysts and voices in the game. When he says something, everybody listens. Serena, who is out of the game due to pregnancy, took offence and retorted in her trademark fashion.
“Dear John, I adore and respect you but please please keep me out of your statements that are not factually based,” she said on Twitter. “I’ve never played anyone ranked “there” nor do I have time. Respect me and my privacy as I’m trying to have a baby. Good day sir.”
However, Russian Dmitry Tursunov, ranked 701 in the world, however, believes he can prevail over the 23-time Grand Slam champion. He put his view across with a dash of dry humour.
“I would hope that I would win against Serena,” the 34-year-old said. “Physically I might not be in the best shape of my life but as an overall package I’m much better than my ranking would suggest. She is pregnant, and I’m not.
Tursunov was once ranked as high as 20th in the world. Trying to reason on McEnroe’s behalf, he said the left-hander, who won three titles at Wimbledon and four at the US Open,was not “trying to talk women’s tennis down” but only reflecting “the reality” that “men are stronger in general”.
John not done yet
But McEnroe had not had enough after stirring a hornet’s nest. On Wednesday, he suggested that having women players take on men on a tennis court would prove, once and for all, the veracity of his statement. “I’ve got a solution. Men and women play together. Then we don’t have to guess. I’m sure the men would be all for it.”
There is history to it
We have been down this path before. In 1973, Billie Jean King challenged and beat Bobby Riggs, the men’s No.1 in the 1940s in Houston. Earlier that year, Riggs had beaten another top women’s player, Margaret Court, pretty handily.
In 1992, Jimmy Connors had beaten Martina Navratilova in a match in which rules were tweaked to make it more competitive.
With a film on the original ‘Battle of the Sexes’ — between Bobby Riggs and Billy Jean King — set to release on September 22, the ongoing controversy would be doing the job of the film’s publicists. It will only heighten the interest levels about the film and its plot, heavily borrowed from real life. Who knows, Serena may challenge McEnroe when she returns to the court, in yet another twist to this saga.