John McEnroe arrived in Wimbledon last night amused at the controversy he claims to have unwittingly caused with his comments that reigning women’s champion Serena Williams would not have a chance against any of the top 700 male players.
Not only did the American legend upset his fellow countrywoman, — he also managed to offend the No.701 man in the world for implying he might lose to a woman.
The age-old battle of the sexes often seems to flare up around Wimbledon, which had long ago hoped to end the debate by introducing equal prize money, with this year’s champions due to win in excess of €2.2m each.
Three-time Wimbledon winner McEnroe, who is also publicising a new book, made out he was baffled by the fuss, though conceded a similar storm had been raging around him in America.
But he insisted: “I believe my views on Serena are very well established over the years and perhaps the mistake I made if, God forbid, I made one was coming up with a number which, God forbid, might have upset some people, but I do believe I am entitled to an opinion.
“I think that this comes up every now and then and not sure why in this sport and not any other.
“I know that Bobby Riggs played Billie Jean King, but that was over 40 years ago. And people seem to ask me about playing Serena, which I have always found bizarre, but it maybe would be interesting as a spectacle.
“It is not like this is something I came up with yesterday or a couple of days ago!”
McEnroe also smiled at himself after Williams, who will not defend her title this year as she is pregnant, had posed naked for Vanity Fair while simultaneously asking to be left to get on with having her child in peace.
He added: “I heard one of the things she had tweeted me because I don’t do that (Twitter), was along the lines of ‘respect my privacy’.
“Then she is on the cover of Vanity Fair doing her Demi Moore thing. That’s great and fine. People do things the way they want to do and she is perfectly entitled. But I wouldn’t exactly call that private and all of a sudden I am the bad guy — and I have never been the bad guy!”
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