John McEnroe stands by Wimbledon comments on Emma Raducanu

The Guardian - Wed Sep 15 09:51

John McEnroe was criticised heavily after his comments about Emma Raducanu when she retired from Wimbledon in July, but the American said he was “very supportive” of her at the time and praised the Briton for her stunning US Open victory.

Raducanu, who is planning to take some rest after her breakthrough triumph, retired from her last-16 Wimbledon match due to breathing difficulties and McEnroe, commentating for the BBC, said the occasion on her major debut appeared to get “a little bit too much” for her.

McEnroe was criticised for the comments, but the three-times Wimbledon champion said they had been blown out of proportion. “I meant exactly what I said,” McEnroe said on CNN. “I tried to relate it in a small way to my experience when I first went to Wimbledon also at 18. She did better than I did. I played Jimmy Connors, I hadn’t been on the Centre Court and I remember my legs shaking, feeling totally overwhelmed by the experience and almost happy that I didn’t win.

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“Subsequently I went to Stanford for a year and had some time to sort of regroup mentally and prepare for the rigours of the tour. There’s a lot of great upsides, but there’s also pressure you put on yourself and expectations 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.”

The 18-year-old Raducanu beat fellow teenager Leylah Fernandez to become the first qualifier to win a major title on Saturday. McEnroe said he had wondered how she would handle her newfound fame after her Wimbledon run. “I don’t think you could possibly do it any better than she did it [at the US Open],” he said. “That’s insane she’s been able to do this.”

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McEnroe hopes to see Naomi Osaka return to action soon after she took a break from tennis. “Osaka was someone who was very shy and introverted the first time I met her. I think she continues to be that way now,” he said of the four-times major winner.

“She came out last year, made a big statement at the US Open wearing the mask. It was a great thing. Now, all of a sudden, more attention is on her. I hope she can handle it because we need her around for another 10 years.”

John McEnroe in New York last month.
John McEnroe in New York last month. Photograph: Andrew H Walker/Rex/Shutterstock

Meanwhile, Raducanu plans a few days of rest before she is back playing. The new world No 23 has made headlines across the globe, appeared on various TV channels in the United States and she also attended the Met Gala on Monday. A day later she ticked off another long-term aspiration when she visited Wall Street.

“I am on cloud nine but so excited to be here on the New York Stock Exchange. It was one of the places on my bucket list before leaving New York and I’m just so excited and grateful to everyone who made this possible,” Raducanu told CNBC’s Closing Bell programme.

“I have a few days’ rest and recovery [coming up], I think needed after the last seven weeks but then I am straight back to training and hungry to get better and come back out and play some more tournaments.”