Man versus woman is an obsession that seems as old as time and tennis hasn’t been immune to the conversation through the years.
The latest version of the discourse was recently raised by John McEnroe during an NPR interview where he was peddling his new book, But Seriously. McEnroe suggested that if Serena Williams, arguably the best woman to ever play the game, plied her trade on the men’s tour she’d weigh in a journeyman’s No. 700 in the ATP world rankings.
Since that interview, during which McEnroe felt he was pushed for a reaction, he’s been fielding constant questions about his comments and says he’s surprised as to the firestorm he’s created. He did so again on a conference call for ESPN Wimbledon commentators on Wednesday.
“This is not something that is earth shattering, that I think there’s a difference in the level of the men and the women,” McEnroe said. “I was trying to say how great Serena is and how good she’s been for American tennis.”
The argument as to how she’d stand against the men is one Williams, off the tour awaiting the birth of her first child at the end of the summer, prefers not to join. And she declines with experience from her youth. As a 16-year-old neophyte, playing her first Australian Open in 1998, she and sister, Venus, challenged then ATP 200th-ranked Karsten Braasch to a Battle of the Sexes — Braasch beat Serena 6-1 and Venus 6-2 in the one set he played against each sister.
En route to winning the Australian Open this past January — her 23rd Grand Slam singles title — Serena Williams feigned a memory lapse when asked about the Braasch encounter. Today, she’s a savvier, smarter, more accomplished player, who would undoubtedly showcase…