‘I meant exactly what I said’: John McEnroe stands by his controversial questioning of Emma Raducanu’s mental strength at Wimbledon… and insists he meant to be SUPPORTIVE of the new US Open champion
- Emma Raducanu retired from her last-16 Wimbledon tie on medical grounds
- The 18-year-old Brit later revealed she had been suffering breathing difficulties
- John McEnroe insisted the occasion had got to Raducanu on her SW19 debut
- The tennis legend says he stands by comments about new US Open champion
John McEnroe has stood by his comments questioning Emma Raducanu’s mental strength at Wimbledon earlier this year, just a couple of months before she became US Open champion.
The 18-year-old retired from her last-16 match against Ajla Tomljanovic at SW19 in July on medical grounds after she was seen holding her stomach on several occasions and appearing to hyperventilate prior to her withdrawal.
The following day she revealed she had ‘breathing difficulties’ and that she thought ‘the whole experience caught up with me’.
John McEnroe (left) has stood by his comments questioning Emma Raducanu’s mental strength at Wimbledon
The 18-year-old retired from her last-16 tie at SW19 in July due to breathing difficulties
But her withdrawal received criticism from some quarters, including from McEnroe, 62, who suggested the occasion ‘just got a little bit too much’ for her.
The seven-time Grand Slam winner now says he stands by his words, insisting his comments were ‘vanilla’ and blown out of proportion.
‘I meant exactly what I said,’ McEnroe told American broadcaster CNN in an interview on Tuesday.
‘I tried to relate it in a small way to my experience when I first went to Wimbledon, also at 18.
It led McEnroe to suggest the stage had been ‘a little too much’ for 18-year-old Raducanu
‘There’s a lot of great upsides, but there’s also pressure you put on yourself and expectations that others put on you. I mean that was, to me, as vanilla as it comes… I was very supportive of her, I thought, at the time.
‘You know the papers over in England. Sometimes they make a big deal out of, to me, nothing.’
Raducanu however put any doubts about her mental strength to bed when she became the first qualifier to ever win a major after beating fellow teenager Leylah Fernandez in straight sets in the final at Flushing Meadows.
The new world No 23 – who has jumped 127 places after her US Open win – became the first British woman to win a grand slam in 44 years, since Virginia Wade’s Wimbledon title in 1977.
Raducanu went on to win the US Open two months later, beating Leylah Fernandez in the final
McEnroe says the new British No 1’s achievement was ‘incredible’ and admits 39-time Grand Slam winner Billie Jean King has been vindicated in believing ‘pressure is a privilege’.
‘I don’t think you could possibly do it any better than she did it when the US Open,’ he added. ‘Are you kidding me? That’s insane, and that she’s been able to do this now there’s going to be obviously a lot more focus on it. It’s incredible.
‘If Billie Jean King says pressure is a privilege, I believe her. She’s done more for women’s sports and maybe sports in general than anyone in the last 100 years.’
‘I don’t know how she is turning it around over the last couple of months (since Wimbledon) but I’m sure a lot of people would like to find out.’
McEnroe’s initial comments caused uproar, saying live on the BBC following Raducanu’s withdrawal at the All England Club: ‘It appears that it just got a little bit too much, as is understandable, particularly [with] what we’ve been talking about this last six weeks with Naomi Osaka not even here.
‘How much can players handle? It makes you look at the guys that have been around and the girls for so long, how well they can handle it.
Raducanu is now the new British No 1 and the first British women’s singles champion since 1977
‘These guys that can keep their composure and the girls out there are absolutely amazing – so we have to appreciate the players that are able to do it so well and hopefully she will learn from this experience.’
Four-time Grand Slam singles winner Osaka withdrew from the French Open earlier this year to tend to her mental health.
She took a break from the sport, pulling out of Wimbledon too, but returned in time for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and US Open, where she was beaten by eventual finalist Fernandez.
Osaka said then: ‘I feel like for me, recently, when I win, I don’t feel happy, I feel more like a relief. And then when I lose, I feel very sad.
‘I don’t think that’s normal. Basically, I feel like I’m kind of at this point where I’m trying to figure out what I want to do, and I honestly don’t know when I’m going to play my next tennis match.’
Naomi Osaka insists she does not know when she will play tennis again after her latest defeat
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