John McEnroe sticks to his guns over Emma Raducanu comments, saying ‘I wouldn’t say anything different’

Emma Raducanu in discomfort

There was no changing of the tune from John McEnroe following his controversial comments about Emma Raducanu following her Wimbledon exit last year, insisting “I wouldn’t say anything different”.

Tennis great McEnroe caused a bit of a storm last summer when Raducanu retired with breathing problems from her fourth-round clash on her Grand Slam main draw debut, suggesting the British teenager could not handle the pressure.

Speaking on the BBC at the time, the American said: “I feel bad for Emma, obviously. It appears it just got a little bit too much, as is understandable.

“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.”

Two months later and Raducanu was able to “handle the pressure” at the US Open as she stunned the world by becoming the first qualifier to win a Grand Slam.

McEnroe, though, is standing by his comments from last year, telling Daily Mail: “I wouldn’t say anything different. I’ve never met Emma I was just giving an educated guess as to what I thought was happening, based on 40 or 45 years being around the professional game. I have four girls of my own.”

He continued: “It happens all the time. It’s not like she’s the first person it’s happened to, this has been going on as far back as when I was playing.

“Naomi Osaka’s had issues with mental health. You were supposed to grit your teeth and bare it and get through it and tough it out and this type of stuff. Now it’s becoming more of a discussion point, rightfully so. A lot of times for these young guys and girls, it’s a lot to deal with when they’re not prepared to. It’s a dream, but it’s also can be quite difficult, like overwhelming.

“Simona Halep said she had the first panic attack of her life playing at the French Open. So this is something that’s being discussed more and more.

“I was trying to be supportive of her without exactly knowing what was happening. And I felt bad for her. And I was amazed that she was able to come out of that and suddenly win the US. Open. I’m on her side. Just for the good of the game, I’d like to see her be able to reach her potential.”

McEnroe received a lot of criticism at the time and the seven-time Grand Slam winner concedes “I think you have to be a little more careful” about comments, but revealed that he also struggled with the pressure during his career.

“I try to be as honest as possible without going over a line, a line that we don’t even know exists,” he said. “I’m not sure where it is. I don’t know if anyone does. It depends on what day it is. So I try to be as honest as possible. I will continue to try to do that.

“But the sport’s given me a lot and I try to encourage, or to suggest that people would listen and give free advice to people if they’re willing to hear it. I went through stuff, I was overwhelmed at times. I didn’t play Wimbledon for two years (in 1986 and 87).

“I felt like it was too much for me. We don’t sit and discuss that that often. But I chose not to go. Do I wish that I’d done that now? No, I wish I had played in a way. I gave up two opportunities to play for something that no one remembers, basically, and maybe some of it was stubbornness, some of it may have been stupidity, but some of it was because it was feeling like it was too much to handle. I feel like I generally could handle a lot.”