Tennis legend John McEnroe raised eyebrows with comments he made about 18-year-old British tennis player Emma Raducanu on Monday night.
After Raducanu pulled out of Wimbledon Monday due to breathing issues while down 6-4, 3-0 to Ajla Tomljanovic, McEnroe claimed “it just got a little bit too much” for Raducanu — before he drew parallels to Naomi Osaka, who withdrew from the French Open and Wimbledon, citing mental health reasons.
“I feel bad for Emma, obviously,” McEnroe, a three-time Wimbledon champion, said on the BBC, where he works as an analyst for the grand slam.
“It appears it just got a little bit too much, as is understandable, particularly with what we’ve been talking about this over the last six weeks with Osaka not even here,” McEnroe said.
“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. Hopefully she’ll learn from this experience.”
Raducanu went from an unknown to the darling of the British press in one week as she pulled three upsets to reach the Round of 16 in her home country.
Tomljanovic said in her post-match press conference that she thought McEnroe’s comments were “definitely harsh.”
“I can’t imagine being in her shoes at 18 playing a fourth round in your home country. It’s something I can’t even imagine,” the Australian said. “For him to say that, it’s definitely harsh. I have experienced something similar but not to that extent. I know that it’s a real thing. I’ve spoken to athletes that have gone through that. It’s not easy.”
There is still no word as to why Raducanu withdrew, though she appeared to be experiencing breathing issues after asking for a medical time out. A trainer was seen telling her to “take deep breaths” before ushering her off Center Court.
Following Raducanu’s medical situation, Dr. Alex George, an A&E doctor, slammed McEnroe in a tweet congratulating the teen tennis star.
“I didn’t realise John McEnroe was medically qualified or that he has X-ray vision!,” he tweeted Monday. “I hope Emma Raducanu is ok and wish her a speedy recovery. Did her country proud.”
Raducanu beat two top-50 opponents, Marketa Vondrousova and Sorana Cirstea, to reach the fourth round. Her underdog status, combined with her incredible strides throughout the tournament, quickly made her a fan favorite.
McEnroe suggested that Raducanu and Tomljanovic’s late start to their fourth-round meeting contributed to Raducanu’s situation. A five-set nail-biter match between Alex Zverev and Felix Auger-Aliassime delayed the match.
“I don’t think it helped that the previous match went as long as it did because it made her think about it more,” McEnroe said, adding, “That’s a lot to take on, especially when you’ve never been there before.”
McEnroe was also criticized for suggesting that Raducanu’s Wimbledon exit could hurt her chances for future tournaments.
“Allow her to take some deep breaths and maybe get some wild-cards. She’ll probably get one for the Australian Open but I’m not sure about the US Open,” he said.
Raducanu entered Wimbledon as the world No. 338, but received a wild-card invitation from the All England Club. Wimbledon said she would not make a statement on Monday night, and she has yet to address her tournament exit.
World No. 75 Tomljanovic will move on and face Australian top seed Ash Barty on Tuesday.
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