Most could have forgiven Serena Williams for kicking off in response to John McEnroe’s comments, but that has never been her style.
McEnroe, a former world number one in the men’s game, suggested Williams – while the best female tennis player in the world – would only reach a ranking of around 700 if she played on the men’s tour.
As arguably the greatest athlete in the world right now, Williams would have been well within her rights to take her compatriot to task. However the 35-year-old, who won her 29th Grand Slam singles title this year (while approximately eight weeks pregnant, to boot), issued a response that demonstrates she is a class act on and off the court.
“Dear John, I adore and respect you but please please keep me out of your statements that are not factually based,” she tweeted.
“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.”
McEnroe started the beef when he told interviewer Lulu Garcia-Navarro “If she played the men's circuit she'd be like 700 in the world.
“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.
“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 'cause she's been in it so many times, so many situations at Wimbledon, The U.S. Open, etc. But if she had to just play the circuit — the men's circuit — that would be an entirely different story.”
The question of whether Williams is the best female player or the best player full stop isn’t an invitation to pit women against men in imaginary tournaments, or even an affront to the ability of male players.
The obsession with forcing women to prove themselves on the men’s tour is a strange one, often borne out of a desire to reaffirm male superiority even in a situation that will never be more than theoretical.
It’s a similar mindset to the one which has seen men argue that women should play five-set matches if they want equal prize-money, ignoring the fact that the move from best-of-five to best-of-three matches in the women’s game was made without the consent of players (and seemingly against their wishes).
Williams, who has won each of the four Grand Slams at least three times, is currently on hiatus from the game as she awaits the arrival of her first child with fiancé Alexis Ohanian. She is expected to return to competitive tennis in 2018.
(Feature image: Wikimedia Commons)