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Serena Williams Refuses to Play Ball With John McEnroe's Sexist Comments 

Serena Williams Refuses to Play Ball With John McEnroe's Sexist Comments 

Serena Williams and John McEnroe

McEnroe's not sorry he said the "best female"player would be the 700th best on the male circuit. 

Although Billie Jean King trounced Bobby Riggs in the Battle of the Sexes 44 years ago, former tennis pro John McEnroe's recent misogynist comments about Serena Williams's athletic prowess suggests he's still living in the 1970s. McEnroe, whose penchant for tantrums on the court earned him a reputation beyond his athletic abilities, said that Williams, one of the most celebrated players in women's tennis history with 23 Grand Slam titles to her name, would barely rank among professional male tennis players. But times have changed since the '70s, so Williams shot right back at McEnroe, telling him essentially to stop shooting his mouth off.

In an interview with NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro over the weekend, three-time Wimbledon winner McEnroe agreed there was no question that Williams is the greatest female tennis player in the world. But when Garcia-Navarro pressed him as to why he qualifies her greatness by her gender rather than calling her the "best player" period, he said, "If she played the men's circuit she'd be like 700 in the world."

What's worse is that he didn't stop there with his unprovable notion that she would rank so low among male tennis players. When Garcia-Navarro mentioned that it's been suggested that McEnroe and Williams team up to re-create a Battle of the Sexes moment, he said he didn't really have an interest but then crassly added, "Maybe I should get her now because she's pregnant."

Williams was not about to play ball with McEnroe, calling his ignorance out on Twitter with respectful yet pointed tweets.

Despite his insistence that Williams, the person he deems the best female player in the world, could not also be the best player in the world, solely because of her gender, McEnroe mentioned his evolving feminism that's been spurred by his daughters.

"You know my daughter, one the things she says is 'You're a feminist, Dad.' OK. I started with two boys, I got four girls now, and I'm all for it and I'm trying to just get with it and figure it out," McEnroe said on NPR.

When Garcia-Navarro pressed him about being a "feminist," he reaffirmed the position that he believes that the best female athletes can't possibly be better than the best male athletes.

"Maybe at some point, a women's tennis player can be better than anybody," McEnroe said. "I just haven't seen it in any other sport, and I haven't seen it in tennis. I suppose anything's possible at some stage."

So while McEnroe is busy coming to grips with his burgeoning "feminism," Dmitry Tursunov, the male player ranked number 701, apparently felt threatened by McEnroe's suggestion that Williams would be ranked above him at 700, so he told the BBC that he hopes he would win a match against her. Then he became the second man to drag her pregnancy into a conversation Williams said she wanted no part of.

"She is pregnant; I'm not," he named as one of the reasons he could beat her. However, there was no follow-up question as to whether or not he thought he could beat her if she weren't pregnant.

While McEnroe declined to apologize for his remarks when he was given the opportunity on CBS This Morning, the final say really belongs to Williams, who discussed gender parity in sports on ESPN last December.

"If I were a man, I'd have been considered the greatest ever a long time ago," Williams said.

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Tracy E. Gilchrist

Tracy E. Gilchrist is the VP, Executive Producer of Entertainment for the Advocate Channel. A media veteran, she writes about the intersections of LGBTQ+ equality and pop culture. Previously, she was the editor-in-chief of The Advocate and the first feminism editor for the 55-year-old brand. In 2017, she launched the company's first podcast, The Advocates. She is an experienced broadcast interviewer, panel moderator, and public speaker who has delivered her talk, "Pandora's Box to Pose: Game-changing Visibility in Film and TV," at universities throughout the country.
Tracy E. Gilchrist is the VP, Executive Producer of Entertainment for the Advocate Channel. A media veteran, she writes about the intersections of LGBTQ+ equality and pop culture. Previously, she was the editor-in-chief of The Advocate and the first feminism editor for the 55-year-old brand. In 2017, she launched the company's first podcast, The Advocates. She is an experienced broadcast interviewer, panel moderator, and public speaker who has delivered her talk, "Pandora's Box to Pose: Game-changing Visibility in Film and TV," at universities throughout the country.