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John McEnroe on Raducanu’s panic attack at Wimbledon and why Andy Murray is a serious contender

After Emma Raducanu, with a heaving chest and difficulty breathing, retired at the fourth round at Wimbledon last year, John McEnroe gave his take on what was going on.

Since this was the 2020s, his judgment that the occasion was “a little too much for her” caused a social media firestorm. Accusations flew back and forth that he had been callous in her hour of need.

Nearly 12 months later, McEnroe does not regret his immediate verdict (which was more or less endorsed by Raducanu himself the next day).

Tennis legend John McEnroe stuck to his comments about Emma Raducanu's mental strength at Wimbledon

John McEnroe stuck to his comments about Emma Raducanu’s mental strength at Wimbledon

“I wouldn’t say otherwise,” he says on reflection. “I was just giving an educated guess of what I thought was going on, based on 40 or 45 years of experience in the professional game.”

Overlooked in the primetime maelstrom that followed, McEnroe is not only the father of four girls, but also an East Coast liberal within arm’s reach.

While many viewers found the scenes on Court One somewhat shocking, he, like many seasoned tennis watchers, had experienced something similar before. “It happens all the time,” adds McEnroe. “It’s not like she’s the first person it’s happened to, this has been going on for as long as when I was playing.

“You had to bite your teeth and put up with it and make it hard and things like this. Now it becomes more of a discussion point, and rightly so.

The then 18-year-old retired from her last-16 draw at SW19 in 2021 due to breathing difficulties

The then 18-year-old retired from her last-16 draw at SW19 in 2021 due to breathing difficulties

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“Often it’s a lot for these young boys and girls to deal with. Simona Halep (2019 Wimbledon Champion) said she had the first panic attack of her life while playing at the French Open. So this is something that is being discussed more and more. At least I tried to support her (Emma). I was overwhelmed at times, I haven’t played Wimbledon for two years. I try to be as honest as possible and will continue to do so.’

McEnroe may not be the most knowledgeable TV analyst, or he may not have the deepest current knowledge, but he never commits the ultimate sin of being anodyne.

With Raducanu’s fitness uncertain for next week’s championships, he sympathizes with her while bewildered by her lack of a full-time coach: “I’ve noticed at my tennis academy that a lot of these parents feel they have to take care of their children. to coach. daughter or son, even if it turns out they don’t have much experience with it.

‘She’s a child. She tries to grow up for the world and for people. And that can be difficult. It (the US Open victory) happened so quickly for her. That just brings triple like what happened at Wimbledon.”

US Open Champion Emma Raducanu

However, Raducanu impressed at the US Open and was eventually crowned champion

Now 63, McEnroe is eyeing what will be an unusual Wimbledon as no ranking points are offered. He does not approve of Wimbledon’s decision to suspend individual Russian and Belarusian players, nor the tours’ response to remove the rankings in retaliation.

Somehow, tennis’s hapless leaders found themselves in a lose-lose situation. “It’s laughable, you know, that you’re going to punish someone if they win,” he says. “Just like Djokovic – this man stopped it. To be deported from Australia, go to Wimbledon and then you work and you get no points if you win it again. You drop places in the ranking, it just seems crazy.’

Another thing he finds extraordinary is the Serb’s refusal to get vaccinated, which could mean he could stay out of the US Open unless the law changes: “He made this decision and he will have to live with it. And he seems determined about that.”

Djokovic’s eviction from Melbourne is just one of many earthquakes to hit tennis over the past 12 months.

Raducanu (right) is currently preparing for her return to Wimbledon next week

Raducanu (right) is currently preparing for her return to Wimbledon next week

One of the others was Boris Becker’s jail term for manipulating his assets when he went bankrupt. While McEnroe won’t elaborate on the implications for victims of this, he’s clearly devastated by his former rival and longtime colleague in the comment box.

“Boris is a friend of mine, this is just awful,” he says. “I want to see him if I can, if he wants to see people. I just feel terrible, he’s been through a lot for a long time.

“He kept telling me it’s going to be okay, it’s under control. You know, that’s Boris, he was a very confident player on the pitch.

‘But sometimes you are not necessarily a good investor. And it seems like there were people around him who didn’t help much.

“Of course he didn’t (expect the minimum sentence of 15 months) because as far as I know he planned to hold some sort of press conference a few days after the decision was made.”

Wimbledon continues without ranking points, Russians and Becker. Happier, it seems likely Andy Murray has recovered enough from a stomach cramp to be able to play.

McEnroe believes Andy Murray is a serious contender for his third Grand Slam title

McEnroe believes Andy Murray is a serious contender for his third Grand Slam title

Given that many contemporary players view grass with suspicion, McEnroe firmly believes that the Scot, a wondrous example of modern medicine, will pose a real threat.

“I absolutely do,” McEnroe insists. “If he’s fit, I think he’s one of the contenders. I actually believe he would be one of the few guys who could win it. He has loads of experience and knows how to play better than almost anyone on that surface.

“He’s looking at Rafa Nadal and Novak, he must think he’s going to have one last hurrah, I think that’s very possible. I’m amazed he moves as well as he does.

“If you have a metal hip, that would say you wouldn’t move very well, but I noticed a marked improvement this year.”

And then there’s the reunion with coach Ivan Lendl: “I saw Ivan recently, I don’t think he would if he didn’t believe Andy could win another one, I honestly don’t believe he would be part of this one .

“So it’s kind of exciting because it puts Andy back in the mix, which I think he deserves.”

John McEnroe is part of the BBC’s Wimbledon 2022 line-up. Watch all the action on BBC TV, radio and online from Monday 27 June.

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