Serena Williams is an "incredible player" but she would be ranked "like 700" if she was on the men's circuit, John McEnroe said during an NPR interview Sunday, igniting a fierce debate and drawing a stern response from Williams. "I adore and respect you but please please keep me out of your statements that are not factually based," she tweeted Monday, adding: "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." During the interview, McEnroe said he hadn't seen it in any other sport, but "I suppose anything's possible; maybe at some point a women's tennis player can be better than anybody."
McEnroe's remarks also drew an online backlash, with critics pointing out that Williams has won 23 Grand Slam titles to McEnroe's seven and managed to win the last one while pregnant, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. The BBC spoke to the man ranked No. 701 in the world, Dmitry Tursunov. The Russian says he thinks he could beat Williams. "Tennis is becoming more and more a physical sport, so it's going to be hard for a woman to beat the men," he says. When NPR asked McEnroe if he had thought about playing Williams, he suggested she play Roger Federer instead. "My kids don't think I can beat her anymore," McEnroe said. "Maybe I should get her now because she's pregnant." (Read more Serena Williams stories.)