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John McEnroe Won't Apologize for His Serena Williams Ranking

In an interview with “CBS This Morning,” the 58-year-old tennis star doubled down on the remark but insisted that the wasn't trying to create controversy.
Image: John McEnroe
John McEnroe waits during a practice session at the Aegon Championships in London on June 13, 2016.Tony O'Brien / Action Images via Reuters

John McEnroe refused to apologize Tuesday for his controversial comments about Serena Williams, but begrudgingly placed the tennis star in his personal list of the best pros in the sport.

McEnroe — who’s best known for his outbursts on the court during his tennis career — sparked outrage over the weekend when called Williams one of the best “female players” and said she would rank “700th in the world” if she played tennis against men.

In an interview with “CBS This Morning,” host Norah O'Donnell asked the 58-year-old tennis star if he wanted to apologize for the comments. He responded simply, "No."

Later, McEnroe shared his own personal rankings of tennis legends. “I’d throw Pete Sampras in — he’s the greatest fast-court player … Serena Williams at five and number six Novak Djokovic, okay?" he said. "You happy now?”

For her part, Williams doesn’t appear to be too bothered by McEnroe’s backhand remarks. On Tuesday, the athlete — who’s pregnant with her first child — shared a photo of her new Vanity Fair cover, posing nude to highlight her growing baby bump.

The tennis star also took to Twitter to fire back at McEnroe, hinting that she was too busy to entertain the fake controversy.

“Dear John, I adore and respect you but please please keep me out of your statements that are not factually based,” Williams tweeted.

In a separate post 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.”

Williams holds 23 singles Grand Slam titles and 14 wins in doubles. In comparison, Roger Federer holds the most Grand Slam titles in men’s singles, with 18 wins.

McEnroe said one way to settle the debate would be to have both men and women play against each other, in essence re-creating the "Battle of the Sexes" that put female tennis legend Billie Jean King against Bobby Riggs.

"Why don't you combine, just solve the problem — I'm sure the men would be all for this — the men and women play together and then we don't have to guess," he said.

King, who was an outspoken advocate for gender equality in sports, beat Riggs in all three sets.

In the past, McEnroe has praised Williams for her dominance on the court. After her 2015 Wimbledon win, McEnroe hailed Williams as "arguably the greatest athlete of the last 100 years."