John McEnroe stuck to his comments about Emma Raducanu’s mental strength at Wimbledon earlier this year, just months before she became US Open champion.
The 18-year-old retired from her last-16 game against Ajla Tomljanovic at SW19 in July for medical reasons after holding her abdomen several times and appearing to hyperventilate before withdrawing.
The next day, she revealed that she was having “breathing difficulties” and that she thought “the whole experience was catching up with me.”
John McEnroe (left) stands by his comments about Emma Raducanu’s mental strength at Wimbledon
The 18-year-old retired from her last-16 draw at SW19 in July due to breathing difficulties
But her withdrawal has been criticized from some quarters, including from McEnroe, 62, who suggested the occasion “just got a little too much” for her.
The seven-time Grand Slam winner now says he stands by his words and insists his comments were “vanilla” and out of proportion.
‘I meant exactly what I said,’ McEnroe told the American broadcaster CNN Tuesday in an interview.
“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 that the stage had been ‘a little too much’ for 18-year-old Raducanu
‘There are many great benefits, but there is also the pressure that you put on yourself and the expectations that others place on you. I mean, that was, to me, as vanilla as it comes… I was very supportive of her then, I thought.
‘You know the newspapers in England. Sometimes, for me, they don’t care.’
However, Raducanu doubted her mental strength as she became the first ever qualifier to win a major after beating fellow teen Leylah Fernandez in straight sets in the final at Flushing Meadows.
The new world No. 23 – who has moved up 127 places after her US Open victory – became the first British woman to win a grand slam in 44 years, since Virginia Wade’s Wimbledon title in 1977.
Raducanu won the US Open two months later, beating Leylah Fernandez in the final
McEnroe says the new UK No. 1’s performance was “incredible” and admits 39-time Grand Slam winner Billie Jean King is justified in believing “pressure is a privilege”.
“I don’t think you could do better than she did at the US Open,” he added. ‘Are you joking? That’s insane, and that she’s been able to do this now will obviously pay a lot more attention to it. It’s unbelievable.
“When Billie Jean King says pressure is a privilege, I believe her. She has done more for women’s sports and perhaps for sports in general in the last 100 years than anyone else.”
“I don’t know how she’s turned it around in recent months (since Wimbledon), but I’m sure a lot of people want to know.”
McEnroe’s initial comments caused a stir, saying live on the BBC after Raducanu’s withdrawal from the All England Club: ‘It seems it got a bit too much, as is understandable, especially [with] which we’ve been talking about with Naomi Osaka for the past six weeks, not even here.
‘How much can players handle? It makes you look at the guys who have been around for so long and the girls, how well they handle it.
Raducanu is now the new British No. 1 and the first British champion in women’s singles since 1977
“These guys who can keep their cool and the girls out there are absolutely amazing – so we have to appreciate the players who can do it so well and hopefully she learns from this experience.”
Four-time Grand Slam winner Osaka withdrew from the French Open earlier this year to improve her mental health.
She took a break from the sport, also withdrawing from Wimbledon, but returned in time for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and the US Open, where she was defeated by eventual finalist Fernandez.
Osaka then said: ‘I feel 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. Actually, I feel like I’m 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 doesn’t know when she will play tennis again after her last defeat