John McEnroe admitted that he is looking for inner peace. Well, the tennis legend wouldn’t find it by slamming Serena Williams, arguably the greatest women’s tennis player of all time, with a seemingly backhanded compliment that puts in doubt the ability of women to compete against men in sports.
John McEnroe, speaking on NPR during the promotional tour of his book, But Seriously, called Serena Williams the “best female player ever.” He could have stopped right there and the matter would have been filed under the usual heap of praise for Williams and would have gone unnoticed. But then again, this is Superbrat speaking, and in typical McEnroe fashion, he declared that Williams would rank “like number 700 in the world” if she were to play with the big boys on the men’s circuit.
McEnroe, however, did say that Serena Williams could probably beat some of the players on the men’s tour but doubts that Williams would be able to do it consistently. McEnroe reasoned that Williams’ mental toughness would be her primary weapon to overcome the disparity in athleticism and strength. That mental toughness has served Williams so well in the past allowing her to escape difficult situations en route to winning 23 single titles in Grand Slam events.
To be fair with John McEnroe, it may have been an honest assessment with regards to the differences between the physical attributes of men and women. In boxing, people endlessly debate who the best fighter is regardless of the weight class and the era in which the fighter fought. “Pound for Pound,” Muhammad Ali, George Forman, Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao, and Oscar de la Joya, among others, have been in the conversation for this mythical title. And the thing is, anyone could argue the pros and cons for each of them. In basketball, Britanny Griner, Candance Parker, Sue Bird, and Diana Taurasi could make a case for themselves that they could break into the NBA. Some basketball pundits even believe at one time that Griner should be given the chance to try out for an NBA team.
But then again, there’s the physical difference between men and women. Sure, Ronda Rousey could probably beat any man in her weight class, but it would always be an uphill battle. In tennis, however, the only way to settle and prove that Serena Williams might be able to compete on the men’s tour is to, well, just compete against the men. Sure, Williams has had her fair share of mixed-doubles titles in major events, but that doesn’t mean she is actually on equal footing against the cream of the crop.
People would pay good money to see Serena Williams go up against the likes of Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic or Rafael Nadal in a competitive match. But the odds will not be in Williams’ favor unless she goes up against Nick Kyrgios as suggested by 3AW host Tony Jones. Put Serena Williams against anyone on the women’s tour, and Williams will always have the chance to win. More than a fair chance actually for she has been one of the most dominant players on the tour since she debuted two decades ago.
And that dominance is something that bothers the volatile one. “For the sake of the game I prefer it when the prizes are spread out amongst more players rather than have the same people winning all the titles,” John McEnroe wrote in his book But Seriously.
So to put it in context, Serena Williams is the best female tennis player ever. But when matched up against men, McEnroe doubts that women, even if they are of the same caliber as Williams, can compete, much less win against the top players in the men’s circuit. “Maybe at some point, a woman can be better than anybody. But I haven’t seen it in any other sport and I haven’t seen it in tennis,” said McEnroe.
John McEnroe’s admitted that his own children do not think that he would be able to beat Serena Williams if they were to play a match. However, McEnroe believes that he has a chance to win against Williams with Serena being pregnant at the moment. Well, he might win that match, but that victory would not get him closer to finding his inner peace. But as always, well played John, well played.
[Featured Image by Rob Tringali/Getty Images]