Tennis

John McEnroe regrets comments on Serena Williams

John McEnroe said yesterday morning (Singapore time) that he regretted saying recently Serena Williams would be ranked "like 700 in the world" if she had to play on the men's circuit and added he was surprised by the controversy it sparked.

McEnroe previously said that Williams, a record 23-time Grand Slam champion in the professional era, was the best female player ever but then declined to label her the best player overall.

"It would have been better not to have said it. I didn't realise it would create something like this," he said in an ESPN conference call ahead of the start of the Wimbledon Open next Monday.

"It would have been easier to leave it. Look, she's a great player and it's apples and oranges."

But McEnroe, a seven-time Grand Slam winner and current ESPN broadcaster, did not retract his statement about where Williams would rank on the ATP Tour.

"This is not something that has been earth-shattering, that I feel there's a difference in the level of the women and the men," he said.

Williams, who is on a break to have her first child, due in August, responded testily to McEnroe on Twitter after his initial comments.

"Dear John, I adore and respect you but please please keep me out of your statements that are not factually based," she wrote.

"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."

But McEnroe also said Williams has been great for US tennis, which has not seen a single American male player win a Major tournament since 2003. - REUTERS

Wimbledonserena williamsTennis