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Stephen Colbert challenges John McEnroe on Serena Williams remark

The former tennis pro stands by his opinion but respects Williams.

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John McEnroe’s book tour for But Seriously has been soured by recent remarks he made to NPR regarding Serena Williams. Now, he’s spending a portion of his publicity appearances, including on CBS This Morning and Tuesday’s episode of The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, facing the music. As Colbert noted, McEnroe “topped” himself with this one.

“You can’t be serious,” Colbert said. The late-night personality read his comment out loud, which drew audible boos from the audience: If Williams had “played the men’s circuit, she’d be like 700 in the world.” McEnroe tried to keep things as light as possible in response to Colbert and the hostile crowd. “It didn’t go over big with my daughters either,” he said.

Colbert tried giving McEnroe a “lifeboat” by bringing up a previous statement he made about Williams being “arguably the greatest athlete of the last 100 years,” but then he “stabbed it with a knife,” as Colbert joked. “She’s certainly one of the greatest athletes of the last 100 years,” his guest said, but he ultimately stands by his opinion.

“People always ask me can I beat Serena Williams,” McEnroe said. “My girls don’t think I can beat her now. I thought I could beat her. She’s pregnant, so maybe I should play her now, I’d have a better chance. But either way, I wish her the absolute best. She’s the best thing to happen to American tennis in the last 10, 15 years.”

Williams posted two tweets in response to McEnroe on Monday, but the former tennis pro told CBS This Morning he won’t apologize for the comments. “That doesn’t mean I don’t think Serena is an incredible player. I do, but the reality of what would happen would be I think something that perhaps it’d be a little higher, perhaps it’d be a little lower,” he said.

Watch his statements on The Late Show above.

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