John McEnroe said something stupid about Serena Williams (again)

John McEnroe says Serena Williams would be ranked around No. 700 in the world if she were playing against men. And if my grandmother had wheels, she’d be a bicycle. Because, you know, Serena doesn’t play against mean. She plays against women and she’s the all-time leading Grand Slam champion and is currently ranked No. 4 in the world despite not having played a match since January.


McEnroe is trying to sell copies of his new biography, But Seriously, an endeavor that must be difficult given that Johnny Mac seemingly used all the good stuff in his 2002 tome You Cannot Be Serious. (Wait for the third book in the trilogy, simply titled Serious.) Thus, he comes up with a not-so-tantalizing tale of how Andy Warhol ruined his sex life (I didn’t read the story but I assume it has something to do with the high sodium content of Campbell’s Soup) and an even-less provocative statement about how Serena Williams would do playing against men, a discussion that’s about as important, relevant and meaningful as asking how the WNBA champions would do against the Warriors.


We’ve already had this discussion before. Many times. Many, many times. MANY, MANY, MANY TIMES. And the verdict is always the same: yeah, Serena wouldn’t be able to win a game against the best 100 male players and probably would struggle to even score a victory against the top 500. Don’t just take my word for it (please):

“If I were to play Andy Murray, I would lose, 6-0, 6-0, in 5 to 6 minutes, maybe 10 minutes.” – Serena Williams, 8/22/13

I once took an informal poll of tennis folk and posed the (idiotic – I cannot stress how idiotic) question about Serena vs. male tennis players and everybody was in agreement: It wouldn’t be a contest. Some agreed with Serena’s cheeky (I think) answer about Murray, saying she wouldn’t win a single point. I don’t buy that and I don’t think Serena does either. Others said Serena would lose 6-0, 6-0 but would sprinkle in some points. The theorized over/under on players she could beat averaged around No. 500, if I recall.


That’s actually really, really good if you think about how, say, the 500th-best football player is making millions on an NFL team or the 500th-best baseball player is a relief pitcher on the Dodgers or something. But in tennis, being 500th in the world means financial strife and anonymity – playing futures events in front of 25 people in Vero Beach. So it has less pizazz if you say “Serena could beat someone in the top 500,” even if I think that’s still pretty damn impressive.

I think Serena could pull some games, at minimum, from plenty of male players because of her powerful, accurate serve and there’s definitely a level where she’d be able to win matches in this frivolous theoretical that people love to discuss. That level also includes beating McEnroe, who said years ago that he could still beat Serena in even his 50s.

No. No you couldn’t. But the fact that he’s said so, years before his newest formulation on the same meaningless take, shows that Johnny Mac is just milking this one for attention and I, like many others, have fallen for it again.


For what it’s worth (and maybe it’s the only quote from McEnroe in this post that is worth something), he’s said Serena is the greatest player ever on numerous occasions and that her serve is the greatest weapon the sport has ever seen.

Who cares about that though? Let’s use made-up scenarios to tacitly question an athlete’s worth. I mean, how would Serena do against her co-star in commercials, IBM’s Watson? Maybe we’ll find out in McEnroe’s third book.


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