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  • John McEnroe caused controversy after claiming Serena Williams would be ranked 700th in the world if she played on the men’s ATP tour
  • Williams issued a response on Twitter asking McEnroe to ‘respect’ her privacy
  • McEnroe said he should have kept quiet about 23-time Grand Slam champion

Matthew Lambert For Mailonline

John McEnroe has acknowledged he should have kept quiet regarding Serena Williams and her hypothetical ranking on the men’s tour.

Addressing his now infamous comment that Williams, who has won 23 Grand Slam titles, would be ranked 700 in the world in the men’s game, McEnroe said: ‘I’m sure it would have been easier just to have said, “She’s a great player and (the men’s and women’s game) is apples and oranges”.’

Speaking on behalf of ESPN, McEnroe added: ‘Maybe I would have been better not to have said it. I didn’t realise it would create something like this but maybe it’s better if it hadn’t been said because I have a lot of respect for Serena. I think that people who know me know that.’ 

John McEnroe stood by his claim that Serena Williams would be ranked 700 in the men's game

John McEnroe stood by his claim that Serena Williams would be ranked 700 in the men's game

John McEnroe stood by his claim that Serena Williams would be ranked 700 in the men’s game

Serena Williams tweeted her response to McEnroe, asking him to respect her privacy

Serena Williams tweeted her response to McEnroe, asking him to respect her privacy

Serena Williams tweeted her response to McEnroe, asking him to respect her privacy

His comments have created quite a furore, with Williams, who is heavily pregnant with her first child, responding on Twitter telling McEnroe to ‘keep me out of your statements that are not factually based’ and asking him to ‘respect my privacy’.

Asked if he expected his comments to get such a strong reaction, McEnroe replied: ‘No. It’s not earth shattering that there’s a difference between the men and the women. I was trying to say how good I thought Serena was and how great she’s been for American tennis.

‘We have these conversations (about men vs women in tennis) fairly often and a lot of people weigh in. People don’t have to agree with my opinion and maybe it was wrong. It was just an opinion.’

Williams is considered the finest tennis player in the history of the women's game

Williams is considered the finest tennis player in the history of the women's game

Williams is considered the finest tennis player in the history of the women’s game

The whole issue of where certain women would rank on the men’s tour is largely irrelevant, which McEnroe acknowledged. 

‘I don’t think it’s relevant and that’s part of the frustration I’m having, that people keep talking about it,’ he said. 

‘It doesn’t seem like we hear about it in other sports. I continue not to understand why it’s such a topic of conversation.’

Former tennis star McEnroe has been riled by the general response to his '700' assessment

Former tennis star McEnroe has been riled by the general response to his '700' assessment

Former tennis star McEnroe has been riled by the general response to his ‘700’ assessment

Williams has won 23 grand slam titles, just one less than the record holder Margaret Court

Williams has won 23 grand slam titles, just one less than the record holder Margaret Court

Williams has won 23 grand slam titles, just one less than the record holder Margaret Court

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