WIMBLEDON, England — Former tennis star John McEnroe is being criticized for his reaction on the BBC’s broadcast to British teenager Emma Raducanu‘s mid-match retirement at Wimbledon.
McEnroe, a seven-time Grand Slam singles champion, appears as an analyst on the host country’s television coverage at the All England Club. McEnroe also works as an analyst for ESPN.
The 18-year-old Raducanu stopped playing while trailing in the second set of her fourth-round match against Ajla Tomljanovic on Monday night. Raducanu was visited by a trainer, then left the court for a medical timeout. Eventually, the chair umpire announced the 338th-ranked Raducanu would not continue because of a health issue, but did not specify why.
McEnroe told viewers “it appears it got a bit too much, which is understandable, particularly with what we’ve been talking about this over the last six weeks with (Naomi) Osaka not even here.”
Osaka, a four-time major champion, pulled out of the previous Grand Slam tournament, the French Open, and also missed Wimbledon because she said she needed a mental health break.
“How much can players handle?” McEnroe said. “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.”
More than two hours later, the All England Club said Raducanu had “difficulty breathing.”
“I can’t imagine being in her shoes, at 18, playing a fourth round in your home country. It’s something I can’t even imagine,” Tomljanovic said, when asked about McEnroe’s comments. “For him to say that, it’s definitely harsh.”
In a statement, ESPN said, “We are exploring the details surrounding what was said on BBC and will be following up with John.”
Harriet Minter, a London-based journalist who focuses on issues relating to women, the future of work, media and diversity, criticized McEnroe on Twitter, saying, “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.”
Chloe Hubbard, executive editor of London’s Independent newspaper, tweeted, “Feel like the producers could have given given (sic) McEnroe a bit of a better mental health briefing ahead of him sharing ALL the views there.”
Andy Murray, responding to a couple of tweets that implied Raducanu couldn’t handle the pressure, said, “No question mental toughness can be what separates the best in sport but surely both of you aren’t judging her mental toughness on yesterday’s match?!”
Raducanu’s match got a late start due to the previous men’s match, which went five sets. On Tuesday, the AELTC issued a statement commending Raducanu “for the poise and maturity” she showed throughout the tournament, and noted on the scheduling that “it is not an exact science.”
“All decisions are made with fairness and the best interests of the tournament, players, spectators and our worldwide broadcast audience at heart,” the statement read, “but the unpredictable nature of the length of matches and the British weather can and will cause disruption to any schedule.”
McEnroe also mentioned the late start time during his postmatch analysis, saying it was “a lot to take on” for Raducanu.
“I don’t think it helped that the previous match went as long as it did because it made her think about it more,” he added. “That’s a lot to take on, especially when you’ve never been there before.”
On Tuesday, Raducanu released a statement saying she was “feeling much better.” She said at the end of the first set she “started to breathe heavily and felt dizzy.” The medical team advised her not to continue, and she said she “was not well enough to carry on.”
“Last night will go a long way to helping me learn what it takes to perform at the top,” she wrote. “I will cherish everything we have achieved together this week and come back stronger!”
Information from The Associated Press was included in this report.