John McEnroe speaks for the first time about comments over Emma Raducanu’s Wimbledon exit

Emma Raducanu in discomfort

John McEnroe has insisted he has no regrets over his comments suggesting Emma Raducanu quit her Wimbledon fourth round match in July because  it was “all too much for here” on an emotional level.

Weeks after Raducanu sat her exams, the Toronto-born ace shone at Wimbledon, making the fourth round in impressive fashion before she was forced to retire from her last-16 match with Ajla Tomljanovic on Centre Court owing to breathing difficulties.

McEnroe, a three-time winner at the All England Club, said at the time he felt the occasion was too much for the 18-year-old wildcard and linked it to Naomi Osaka’s mental health difficulties.

Raducanu responded emphatically on court in America and showed her newly improved physicality by not dropping a set in Flushing Meadows, having had to come through qualifying to make the main draw.

Asked in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour what he meant by his comments back in July, McEnroe said: “I meant exactly what I said.

“I tried to relate it in a small way to my experience when I first went to Wimbledon, also at 18, and managed to qualify, like Emma did, get through to the semis.

“She did better than I did. I played Jimmy Connors, I hadn’t been on the Centre Court and I remember my legs shaking, feeling totally overwhelmed by the experience and almost happy that I didn’t win.

“Subsequently I went to Stanford for a year and had some time to sort of regroup mentally and prepare for the rigours of the tour.

“There’s a lot of great upsides, but there’s also pressure you put on yourself and expectations that others put on you.”

McEnroe was criticised heavily at the time for his comments, but insisted that “compared to a lot of other things that I have said in the past, that was about, to me, as vanilla as they come” and stressed: “I was very supportive of her, I thought, at the time.”

He added: “More importantly than what I said, I think, is how she handled it moving forward, because I’m sure there was a lot of concern in the British tennis association, along with people in her family and the people that work with her, how is she going to be able to handle this sort of newfound fame?

“I don’t think you could possibly do it any better than she did it. Win the US Open? Are you kidding me? That’s insane, in that she’s been able to do this.”