On Sunday, while promoting his new book But Seriously, tennis legend John McEnroe uttered a controversial truth about female tennis phenom Serena Williams: Williams, dominant in the women's game, would rank "like 700 in the world" on the men's side.
McEnroe explained that while there is "no question" Williams is the "best female player ever," the men's circuit "would be an entirely different story."
To the dismay of biology-deniers on the Left, McEnroe is exactly right about William's competitive ranking in the men's world. While Williams is dominant among women, her genetic make-up puts her at a major disadvantage against even average-performing men in the sport.
Men are on average taller than women, have more muscle mass, stronger bones, tendons, and ligaments, have bigger hearts, a greater lung volume, and a higher red blood cell count. Biology gives men the upper hand in most all sports, and the game of tennis is definitely one of them.
But there's even more evidence to back McEnroe's assertion here.
Looking at Williams' Universal Tennis Rating (UTR), which is the assigned numerical rating to all tennis players — both men and women — ranging on a 0 to 16.39 scale, the female athlete rates at 13.36, whereas dominant male tennis players like Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic rate at 16.26 and 16.27 respectively. The scale places Williams on-par with average men's college players (ranks about 97th out of the top 125 college men's singles) and nowhere near top-world-ranked men.
Furthermore, in 1998, Williams actually played a set against a male tennis player ranked 203 in the world, Germany's Karsten Braasch. She got her butt handed to her in embarrassing fashion, taking a 6-1 loss as her opponent smoked cigarettes and sipped beer in between change-overs.
"Braasch played a warmup round of golf in the morning, then came to Melbourne Park," notes USA Today. "Braasch would smoke cigarettes and sip beer during the changeovers, and to be honest no longer looked the part of a fit professional athlete. It made no matter. Braasch led 5-0 over Serena before winning the set 6-1."
Also, the opinions in the tennis-insider world tend to agree with McEnroe. When discussion brewed about Williams potentially facing off against tennis great Andy Murray, Jeff Tarango admitted that Williams would be no match. Being generous, Tarango said Williams might be able to knock-off a male player ranked 300-350 due to their nerves. "I'm going to say 300-350, those guys aren't used to playing for $500,000, they might start getting a little nervous and I think on a good surface on a good day, she could maybe take someone out," he said.
Here's more tennis insiders' opinions on such a match-up from For The Win's Chris Chase (emphasis added):
[A]round the time of the Murray discussion, I polled some tennis insiders to see what they thought. Everyone agreed that Serena wouldn’t get a game off Murray and a few agreed that she wouldn’t win a point. No one believed she’d come close to beating a man in the top 100. When asked where in the men’s rankings Serena would be able to get a W, the answers ranged from “between 200 and 300” and “no one in the top 1,500.” (And let me add that the respondents were not people prone to hyperbole or sexism.) McEnroe himself once weighed in on the topic and said Serena might be able to be the No. 500 man in the world.
It's important to stress that none of this takes away from Williams' talent or success as a tennis star. Men and women are different, no matter what your pink-haired gender studies professor tells you. Without acknowledging this simple truth,we inevitably hurt women and take away from their well-deserved accomplishments. Williams is an all-star, a fierce, competitive champion who's the greatest in her field, period. Comparing her to men in the same sport is a rather silly exercise and actually detracts from her legacy rather than doing it credit.