McEnroe, Carillo Tangle Over Women's, Men's Tennis Tour Schedule
On a conference call Thursday, organized by CBS to gin up publicity for the network's coverage of the U.S. Open, Carillo and McEnroe, who won the French Open mixed doubles title in 1977, were in semifinal form.
Their debate focused on whether the top women's players play in enough tournaments, and while the Williams' sisters were the focus of the discussion, the debate was not limited strictly to them.
It was McEnroe who advanced the view that rankings that rely on how many tournaments a player takes part in do a disservice to the players and to the game.
In McEnroe's view, Serena Williams, who withdrew from the Open because of a foot injury, and Venus Williams, seeded third at Flushing Meadow, should be ranked No.1 and No.2 because of what they've done on the big stages, even if they haven't done it that often.
"If a person can play eight or 10 tournaments a year and could win two or three majors, I think that person should be No.1," said McEnroe, adding that the Williamses might play more if there were fewer tournaments and a tighter schedule.
Carillo, meanwhile, believes the men's tour is healthier now in large part because the top players play each other more often, thus strengthening the game.
"That's the bottom line," said Carillo. "And because of it, the quality of tennis goes up, the interest in the level of the tennis goes up. There is more name recognition because these guys are out there all the time. I really wish that was true in women's tennis."
And that's when things got a little surreal. McEnroe then suggested that it was asking too much to require women to play in more tournaments and that they shouldn't be playing in as many events as men.
McEnroe's comments were broken up by an unexplained absence of sound, but on a follow-up question, McEnroe refined his answer to say that both the men and the women are overtaxed by the tour schedule, adding that there should be an extra week between the French Open and Wimbledon and that the Australian Open should be moved back as well.
"I think it's both (whether women players suffer from mental or physical frailty)," said McEnroe. "I think the game is more physical than it's ever been. I think it's very difficult for a man or a woman to be out there by themselves and be able to deal with what's being thrown at them, not only from their opponents but the expectations they have for themselves."
"Look at all the stories we've seen in the women's game, whether it's a father, a domineering father that's put incredible pressure on them and it's caused all types of problems to other players. You could go down the list. You've got to address those issues more seriously. They're just not players losing it a little bit."
Carillo was incredulous.
"I hate the idea that we have to judge women on a curve, to say that this is too much for them," said Carillo. "If you're saying that the women can't maintain the same kind of schedule as the guys, then they don't deserve the attention, they don't deserve equal prize money, then they don't deserve a whole lot of stuff all of a sudden."
"I have a real hard time as a middle-aged woman who's seen a lot of progress through the years in women's sports to think that that's the truth."
To which McEnroe responded: "To pretend that things are OK on the women's tour or that this is the type of schedule that they need, I just don't agree with that."
A word of warning to Dick Enberg, who is coming East from calling San Diego Padres games to referee, er, call play-by-play between the two: bring your flak jacket and be sure and duck from flying shrapnel.