John McEnroe isn’t saying sorry for his comment that Serena Williams would be “like 700 in the world” in the men’s tennis rankings — but he does have a new ranking for the decorated athlete.
In an interview with CBS This Morning on Tuesday, McEnroe addressed his controversial earlier remark to NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro in which he called Williams the “best female player ever,” refusing to drop the gender identifier.
Host Norah O’Donnell asked the former tennis player whether he’d like to apologize.
McEnroe’s reply? “No.”
The 58-year-old explained, “She’s the greatest female player that ever lived, then the lady said to me, I don’t remember which one, but she said, ‘Why did you say woman, why don’t you just say the greatest, you know, tennis player that ever lived?’ And so then I felt the need, however unfortunately probably, to defend myself. I don’t know, just say what I really felt, which is about what I think she would be.”
McEnroe admitted that his comments about Williams were not necessary, adding, “I didn’t know it would create controversy.”
However, when asked to rank the top tennis players of all time in the new interview, McEnroe this time gave Williams the No. 5 spot on his list behind Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Rod Laver and Pete Sampras.
Williams, 35, initially responded to McEnroe’s comments on NPR with two tweets, writing, “Dear John, I adore and respect you but please please keep me out of your statements that are not factually based.”
She followed up with, “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.”
Williams has won 23 single Grand Slam titles, is a five-time winner of the WTA Tour Championships in the singles division and has also won four Olympic gold medals.
She is currently pregnant with her first child with fiancé Alexis Ohanian.