Story at a glance

  • Former Tennis star and commentator John McEnroe is standing behind controversial comments about Emma Raducanu in June.
  • Raducau withdrew from the legendary grass court tennis tournament due to breathing problems.
  • McEnroe maintained he was commenting on the pressures young athletes face in high level competitions while trying to relate it to his own experiences.

Former tennis star and commentator John McEnroe is standing behind controversial comments about Emma Raducanu after the U.S. Open champion’s withdrawal from Wimbledon in June. 

“I feel bad for Emma, obviously. 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 in June referring to Naomi Oskaka’s widely publicized break to address mental health concerns. 

“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,” he continued, according to The Guardian. “Hopefully she’ll learn from this experience.”


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Raducanu withdrew from the legendary grass court tennis tournament due to breathing problems, which McEnroe appeared to conflate with the onset of anxiety caused by enormous pressure at the event. This led to the criticism over the impression that he believed she couldn’t handle it. 

The three-time Wimbledon champion maintained he was commenting on the pressures young athletes face in high level competitions while trying to relate it to his own experiences — and doubled down on his stance in an interview on CNN.

“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,” adding later that his comments were about as “vanilla as they come.” 


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The 18-year-old Raducanu’s U.S. Open victory earned praise from McEnroe, who said he did not “think you could possibly do it any better than she did it.” 

“Are you kidding me, that’s insane she’s been able to do this,” he added. 

Raducanu defeated Leylah Fernandez in straight sets for the U.S. Open title on Saturday. 


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Published on Sep 15, 2021