June 27, 2017 11:53 am

John McEnroe won’t apologize to Serena Williams for insulting remarks

John McEnroe talks about his Serena Williams comments on 'CBS This Morning.'

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A match between John McEnroe and Serena Williams, taking place off-court, is drawing more attention than an actual game of tennis.

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McEnroe, 58, a former No. 1-ranked tennis superstar, has caused an uproar after he commented on Williams’ ability if she were to play the sport against a man. Williams, 35 — at one time No. 1, and currently ranked No. 4 in the world — responded to his remarks, telling him to keep her “out of his statements.” On Tuesday morning, McEnroe refused to apologize.

It all started Sunday during an NPR interview, as McEnroe was promoting his memoir But Seriously. He said that Williams is the greatest woman to play tennis, but he wouldn’t put her in the all-time greatest category of tennis players.

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“Perhaps [her ranking] would be a little higher, perhaps it’d be a little lower,” he said. “And on a given day Serena could beat some players. I believe because she’s so incredibly strong mentally that she could overcome some situations where players would choke because she’s been in it so many times, so many situations at Wimbledon, the US Open etc. But if she had to just play the circuit — the men’s circuit — that would be an entirely different story. [She would] be like 700 in the world.”

He then appeared to backpedal slightly.

“That doesn’t mean I don’t think Serena is an incredible player… [she’s the] best female player ever — no question. Maybe at some point, a women’s tennis player can be better than anybody. 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.”

On Monday evening, Williams replied on Twitter.

Appearing on CBS This Morning on Tuesday, McEnroe was given a chance to apologize to Williams. He said flatly, “No.” (You can watch the exchange in the video, above.)

After saying that he frequently gets asked about how he would fare against female players, McEnroe said that “it wasn’t necessary” for him to bring up Williams, and he “didn’t know it would create controversy.”

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“I don’t want anything to go wrong with Serena, because she’s pregnant,” he continued. “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 deep down we’re talking about something… I can’t even believe we’re talking about it.”

“I’ve got a solution… solve the problem, and I’m sure the men would be all for this: the men and women play together. And then we don’t have to guess.”

When confronted by co-host Gayle King, who said that his comments were “belittling” to women, McEnroe hypothetically ranked himself as No. 1,200 compared to Williams’ 700 in the men’s rankings.

McEnroe’s comments fly in the face of remarks he made in 2012, when he said that Williams was “the greatest player to ever play the game.” After she won Wimbledon in 2015, he called her “arguably the greatest athlete of the last 100 years.”

Williams herself has brought up the differences between men’s and women’s tennis. In 2015, she called them “almost two separate sports” and explained why.

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“If I were to play Andy Murray, I would lose 6-0, 6-0 in five to six minutes, maybe 10 minutes,” she said at the time. “No, it’s true. It’s a completely different sport. The men are a lot faster and they serve harder, they hit harder, it’s just a different game. I love to play women’s tennis. I only want to play girls, because I don’t want to be embarrassed.”

Williams has won 39 Grand Slam titles (23 in singles, 14 in women’s doubles, 2 in mixed doubles) and has career earnings estimated at $84.4 million.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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