John McEnroe bluntly turned down a chance to apologize for saying Serena Williams would be "like No. 700 in the world" if she played on the men's circuit.
John McEnroe isn’t willing to apologize for his controversial remarks about Serena Williams.
“Would you like to apologize?” CBS This Morning co-host Norah O’Donnell asked McEnroe when he appeared on the show Tuesday.
“No,” he replied, as shown in a clip from the interview below. In the full segment, McEnroe stated, “It was not necessary. I didn’t know it would create controversy.”
McEnroe came under fire for telling NPR that if Williams “played the men’s circuit, she’d be like 700 in the world.” He then tried to clarify, “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.”
He reiterated that point on CBS This Morning. “I respect Serena very much so and I was simply calling her on NPR — which supposedly this is where you can say it like it is and you’re gonna get honest feedback — she’s the greatest player, female player, that’s ever lived,” he said.
To “solve the problem,” McEnroe suggested male and female tennis players should play together “and then we wouldn’t have to guess” about their rank in the overall circuit.
Williams — who is now on the cover of Vanity Fair‘s August issue — responded to McEnroe’s initial comments on Twitter Monday.
Dear John, I adore and respect you but please please keep me out of your statements that are not factually based.— Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) June 26, 2017
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— Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) June 26, 2017
“Dear John, I adore and respect you but please please keep me out of your statements that are not factually based,” she wrote. “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.”
“Serena has a way with words,” McEnroe said when Williams’ tweets were read aloud on CBS. “I don’t want anything to go wrong with Serena because she’s pregnant,” he added. “I don’t want to upset her or whatever it was. I think she was doing it tongue-in-cheek, as well, and I think that, deep down, we’re talking about something I can’t even believe we’re talking about right now.”