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(Reuters) - An unapologetic John McEnroe has proposed competition between men and women players to prove his claim that 23-time grand slam singles winner Serena Williams would be ranked "like 700 in the world" if she competed on the men's circuit.
Three-time Wimbledon champion McEnroe said Williams was "the best female player ever" but said her performance on the men's circuit would be an "entirely different story."
Williams responded on Twitter asking the 58-year-old to leave her out of his statements and called for respect and privacy as she takes time off to have her first child.
"I felt the need, however unfortunately, to defend myself and say what I really felt, which is about what I think she would be (in the men's rankings)," McEnroe told American TV show CBS's This Morning on Tuesday.
"I've got a solution. Solve the problem, and I'm sure the men would be all for this – the men and women play together. And then we don't have to guess."
Former world number one Williams confirmed her pregnancy in April and expects to be back on the court as early as January 2018.
Reporting by Aditi Prakash in Bengaluru; editing by Amlan Chakraborty