1 of 2
Associated Press
Tennis great John McEnroe watches from the front row during the second half of a Big East quarterfinal college basketball game between Villanova and St. John's at Madison Square Garden in New York on March 9, 2017. McEnroe caused a stir last week during an NPR interview in which he said Serena Williams would only rank about 700th in the men's game.

All right, that does it. The next person who suggests there is not a vast difference between men and women on the athletic field gets the middle seat between Kathy Griffin and Keith Olbermann.

Of all the tired, worn-out subjects that political correctness has spawned, this is among the most ridiculous of all, defying common sense, biology and evidence.

The subject has come up again because John McEnroe is trying to sell a book. His new memoir is called “But Seriously,” which follows his first memoir, “You Cannot Be Serious.” (But seriously, a tennis player writes not one but two books about his life? You can’t be serious.)

The “controversy” began with a radio interview in which NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro and McEnroe had the following exchange:

Garcia-Navarro: You say (Serena Williams) is the best female player in the world in the book.

McEnroe: 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?

McEnroe: 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?

McEnroe: Well because … if she played the men's circuit she'd be like 700 in the world.

Garcia-Navarro: You think so?

Associated Press
Serena Williams holds up a finger and her trophy after defeating her sister, Venus, in the women's singles final at the Australian Open in Melbourne, Australia on Jan. 28, 2017. Williams found herself in the middle of a discussion comparing male and female athletes thanks to an NPR radio interview with John McEnroe.

This is a big revelation for the interviewer (it helps if you follow, you know, sports). Anyway, for this burst of honesty, McEnroe is being called sexist. Huffington Post headline: “McEnroe just can’t apologize for sexist Serena Williams comment.” A Twitter battle ensued, with readers choosing sides. Williams herself tweeted to McEnroe, “ … please please keep me out of your statements that are not factually based.” (Several media outlets boasted that this qualified as a clever comeback that put Mac in his place — USA Today called it a “blistering” response.)

But how is any of this sexist? McEnroe stated his opinion and he went on to praise Williams as the Greatest (woman) of All Time. Is there something wrong here?

McEnroe’s credentials, as a former tennis champion and long-time tennis commentator, are impeccable. Oh, and one other thing: He’s right. Who knows where Williams would rank exactly — some detractors get hung up on the number 700 but McEnroe was just talking on the fly. It could be 500, it could be 1,000; his point is obvious: There is no comparison between male and female players.

Who says so? Williams.

Appearing on the "Late Show with David Letterman" in 2013, she said, “For me, men's tennis and women's tennis are completely, almost, two separate sports. If I were to play (British star) 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.”

In 1998, Williams played one set against Germany’s Karsten Braasch, who was ranked 203rd on the men’s tour at the time. Braasch smoked cigarettes and sipped beer between change-overs. He took a 5-0 lead and won 6-1. Williams was only 18, but she was ranked No. 4 in the world.

In 2010, during a BBC radio show, a caller asked Murray and McEnroe where the top woman would rank in the men’s game. McEnroe said about 600th; Murray said, “I would be surprised if they were inside 1,000.”

PC people, who tend to drift into absurdity in the face of common sense and science, don’t want to acknowledge there are differences between the sexes. But it’s a tough sell in sports. Men are bigger, stronger, faster, possess bigger bones, more red blood cells, bigger hearts, bigger muscles and the reason they do is because they are drug-aided — Mother Nature provides them with testosterone.

McEnroe isn’t a sexist; he’s a realist.

We’re not talking about 53-year-old Bobby Riggs playing Billie Jean King in her prime. Topendsports.com posted a collection of mixed matches: Martina Navratilova, who was 36 at the time, played Jimmy Connors, 40, in 1992. Connors won 7-5, 6-2 even while allowing her two serves to his one and allowing her to use the doubles court.

3 comments on this story

Yannick Noah played Justine Henin in a lighthearted match in 2003. Wearing a dress much of the match, Noah used trick shots and still won 4–6, 6–4, 7–6. Chris Evert wrote in her autobiography that she couldn’t beat her brother, a low-level college player. Kim Clijsters reported that when she was dating Lleyton Hewitt she could barely win a point against him.

In his NPR interview, McEnroe continued, “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 (than 700), perhaps it’d be a little lower. And on a given day, Serena could beat some players … But if she had to just play the circuit — the men’s circuit — that would be an entirely different story.”

Does any of this sound unreasonable and nonsensical?