Tennis legend and Superbrat John McEnroe likes to get stewed in a controversy, given the slightest chance. His target this time is champion player Serena Williams. On the eve of launching his new memoirs, But Seriously, McEnroe said Williams would probably be ranked 700 in the men’s circuit if she were to play there.
This could have been a stunt to promote the book or just plain talking by McEnroe.
But it made an immediate impact, particularly in the social media, as many fans jumped to support the pregnant Williams. Williams, in her usual fashion, quietly told McEnroe to mind his own business and keep her name out of the rankings, in her reaction. However, McEnroe fuelled more controversy by failing to apologise when given a chance in a CBC programme.
So is McEnroe right? May be to an extent, yes. But ranking Williams at 700 is an insult surely.
That would put her on par with Issam Haitham Taweel of Egypt, according to the Association of Tennis Professionals. That is a joke considering the tremendous career which Williams has had until now.
Williams herself had admitted back in 2013 during a TV interview that she would lose 6-0, 6-0 if she came up against Andy Murray. Williams said that men are much faster, taller and serve harder. But women’s tennis has also evolved too over a period of time and the ladies are finding power in their serves and hitting strength.
One of the pioneers of the powerful service game was German Steffi Graf. One can still remember her taking on another legend, Chris Evert, whose service was a gentle lob compared to the German.
Probably McEnroe himself may have found it difficult to take on some of the powerful tennis players of the new generation. When asked where McEnroe would rank himself today, he replied, “about 1200”. McEnroe’s statement also comes as a surprise as he had earlier said that Williams was among the “best athletes in the last 100 years”.
He had also praised Williams during his regular commentary stints. So his latest pronouncements are directed at being in the picture all the time. McEnroe won’t back out of it. He loves a debate and will add more fuel to the fire at some later date.
Unfortunately for McEnroe, Vanity Fair did a cover story on Williams around the same time and brought the tennis star into focus. His comments also triggered a barrage of praise for Williams and her achievements from her supporters.
Williams told the magazine that she wasn’t done yet and hoped to return next year and continue her mission. Despite many racist and sexist barbs at her, Williams has soldiered on, adding glory upon glory to her magnificent career.
She is arguably the best women’s tennis player of all time, McEnroe and his statements won’t wash.