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.
“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.”