‘Toughen up’: Morgan backs McEnroe as he scolds Brit teen star Raducanu for retiring at Wimbledon with ‘breathing difficulties’
Raducanu, 18, saw her dream debut at the All England Club come to end at the hands of Australian-Croatian star Ajla Tomljanovic on Court One on Monday as the young Brit was forced to retire in the second set while trailing 4-6 0-3.
Before retiring, Raducanu appeared to be suffering from stomach cramps and looked like she was hyperventilating.
Medical staff called onto the court were heard telling the youngster: "Take deep breaths, you can do it. You’re OK.”
Raducanu was later taken behind the scenes for a medical timeout but did not return, with match umpire Aurelie Tourte announcing that she was unable to continue and that Tomljanovic had booked her spot in the quarter-finals.
But if the nature of Raducanu’s exit was painful to watch for her fans, many felt that former tennis bad boy McEnroe – commentating on the BBC – had made it even more excruciating with his comments.
“I feel bad for Emma, obviously,” said the three-time former Wimbledon champion.
“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 [Naomi] Osaka not even here.
“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.”
McEnroe’s suggestion appeared to be that the pressure was too much for Raducanu to handle – and that similar was true for four-time Grand Slam winner Osaka after her decision to withdraw from last month’s French Open and skip Wimbledon altogether due to mental health concerns.
“Maybe it’s not a shame this has happened right now when she is 18,” McEnroe added of the Canadian-born Raducanu.
“I played this tournament at 18 and in a way I was happy I lost. I was able to understand what it would take to make it.”
Ranked world number 338 before the start of the tournament, and only just completing her A-Level exams, Raducanu emerged as her nation’s sweetheart during her unlikely run in a maiden appearance at a Grand Slam.
She saw off two top-50 opponents – Marketa Vondrousova and Sorana Cirstea – on her way to the fourth way, before world number 75 Tomljanovic proved a step too far.
When asked about McEnroe’s comments on her opponent, Tomljanovic claimed they were “harsh”.
“I can’t imagine being in her shoes at 18 playing a fourth round in your home country,” the Aussie said.
“It’s something I can’t even imagine. 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.”
McEnroe, 62, was set to rights in even more sternly-worded terms on social media – where he was accused of misogyny and even drinking on the job.
“Listening to the John McEnroe commentary about Emma Raducanu. Two things: 1. Is he drunk? 2. Is there anything more annoying than a man telling a woman she’s not hurt she’s just emotional? No, no there isn’t. Please ask him to stop,” wrote journalist Harriet Minter.
“I didn’t realize John McEnroe was medically qualified or that he has X-ray vision!” read another comment.
Listening to the John McEnroe commentary about Emma Raducanu. Two things: 1. Is he drunk? 2. Is there anything more annoying than a man telling a woman she’s not hurt she’s just emotional? No, no there isn’t. Please ask him to stop. #Wimbledon— Harriet Minter (@HarrietMinter) July 5, 2021
I didn’t realise John McEnroe was medically qualified or that he has X-ray vision! I hope Emma Raducanu is ok and wish her a speedy recovery. Did her country proud 🇬🇧— Dr Alex (@DrAlexGeorge) July 5, 2021
“Not happy with John McEnroe’s analysis on Raducanu there, evidently spent too much time at the bar," fumed one fan.
"No clarity as to what happened injury wise, but he managed to slur his way to infer it was ‘anxiety induced’ in a belittling manner. Wouldn’t happen if it was a male.”
Others, though, defended McEnroe as merely saying things as he saw them – including TV personality Morgan.
McEnroe told the truth. Ms Raducuna’s a talented player but couldn’t handle the pressure & quit when she was losing badly. Not ‘brave’, just a shame. If I were her, I’d tell my fans to stop abusing McEnroe, & seek his advice on how to toughen up & become a champion like he was. https://t.co/zS06yevfav— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) July 6, 2021
“McEnroe told the truth. Ms Raducuna’s [sic] a talented player but couldn’t handle the pressure & quit when she was losing badly. Not ‘brave’, just a shame. If I were her, I’d tell my fans to stop abusing McEnroe, & seek his advice on how to toughen up & become a champion like he was,” Morgan tweeted.
“To be fair McEnroe also referenced Pete Sampras throwing up at a Slam. It came over to me as an observation on huge pressures on [very] young players generally, and how that can manifest itself (from someone who's been there and done it etc),” added another person.
To be fair McEnroe also referenced Pete Sampras throwing up at a Slam. It came over to me as an observation on huge pressures on v young players generally, and how that can manifest itself (from someone who's been there and done it etc).— Tim Underhill (@timthejab) July 6, 2021
“All these people who want john McEnroe to go for speaking the truth he makes Wimbledon as others are useless compared to him!” said one supporter.
Back on court, the 28-year-old Tomljanovic has now reached her first-ever Grand Slam quarter-final, where she will face world number one and fellow Aussie Ash Barty.
The match-up will be the first time two Australian women have met at this stage of Wimbledon in 41 years.