John McEnroe maintained his comments questioning Emma Raducanu’s mental toughness at Wimbledon earlier this year, just months before she became the US Open champion.
The 18-year-old retired from her last 16 game against Ajla Tomljanovic at SW19 in July on medical grounds after she was seen holding her stomach on several occasions and appearing to hyperventilate before her retirement.
The next day, she revealed that she was having “difficulty breathing” and thought that “the whole experience had caught up with me”.
John McEnroe (left) kept his comments questioning Emma Raducanu’s mental toughness at Wimbledon
The 18-year-old retired from her last 16 games at SW19 in July due to breathing difficulties
But her withdrawal has received criticism from some quarters, including McEnroe, 62, who suggested the opportunity “was just a bit too much” for her.
The seven-time Grand Slam winner now says he stands by his words, insisting his comments were ‘vanilla’ and out of proportion.
“I meant exactly what I said,” McEnroe told US broadcaster CNN in an interview Tuesday.
“I tried to make a little connection with my experience when I first went to Wimbledon, also at 18.
This led McEnroe to suggest that the scene was “a little too much” for 18-year-old Raducanu.
“There are a lot of good sides, but there is also the pressure you put on yourself and the expectations that others put on you. I mean it was, for me, as vanilla as it could come… I was very supportive of her, I thought, at the time.
– You know the newspapers in England. Sometimes they make a big deal out of, for me, nothing.
Raducanu, however, questioned her mental toughness when she became the first qualifier to win a major tournament after beating compatriot Leylah Fernandez in straight sets in the final at Flushing Meadows.
The new world number 23 – who jumped 127 places after her victory at the US Open – became the first British woman to win a grand slam in 44 years since Virginia Wade’s title at Wimbledon in 1977.
Raducanu won the US Open two months later, beating Leylah Fernandez in the final
McEnroe said the achievement of the new Britain’s No.1 was “incredible” and admits that 39-time Grand Slam winner Billie Jean King was vindicated by believing that “pressure is a privilege”.
“I don’t think you can do it any better than she did at the US Open,” he added. ‘Are you kidding me? This is insane, and the fact that she could have done it now, obviously there’s going to be a lot more attention on it. It’s incredible.
“If Billie Jean King says pressure is a privilege, I believe it. She has done more for women’s sport and maybe sport in general than anyone in the past 100 years.
“I don’t know how she’s changed the game in the last two months (since Wimbledon), but I’m sure a lot of people would like to know. “
McEnroe’s initial comments sparked an uproar, saying live on the BBC after Raducanu’s withdrawal from the All England Club: “It seems like it’s gotten a bit too much, understandably, in particular. [with] what we’ve been talking about the past six weeks with Naomi Osaka not even here.
“How much can the players handle? It makes you look at the guys who have been there and the girls for so long how well they can handle it.
Raducanu is now the new British No.1 and the first UK women’s singles champion since 1977
“These guys who can keep their cool and the girls there are absolutely amazing – so we have to appreciate the players who are able to do it so well and I hope she learns from that experience. “
Osaka, a quadruple Grand Slam singles winner, withdrew from Roland Garros earlier this year to take care of his mental health.
She took a hiatus from the sport, also retiring from Wimbledon, but returned in time for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and the US Open, where she was beaten by eventual runner-up Fernandez.
Osaka then said, “I feel like myself, recently when I win I don’t feel happy, I feel more like relief. And then when I lose, I feel very sad.
‘I don’t think that’s normal. Basically I feel like I’m kinda at this point where I’m trying to figure out what I want to do, and honestly, I don’t know when I’m going to play my next tennis match.
Naomi Osaka insists she doesn’t know when to play tennis again after last loss