John McEnroe has stood by his comments questioning Emma Raducanu’s mental strength earlier this year.
The Brit pulled out of her fourth-round match at Wimbledon against Australia’s Ajla Tomljanović because of breathing difficulties and admitted the experience of playing in her first major caught up with her.
This led McEnroe to suggest the occasion got too much for the teenager. “These guys that can keep their composure and the girls out there are absolutely amazing,” he said.
“So we have to appreciate the players that are able to do it so well and hopefully she will learn from this experience.”
His comments drew criticism from fans online, who claimed the seven-time major winner was being too harsh on Raducanu and should leave her alone.
Just a few months later, the British star has defied all critics, including McEnroe, to win her first Grand Slam title at the US Open.
The 18-year-old failed to drop a set in 10 matches and is the first qualifier, male or female, to ever win a major in the Open Era.
But despite Raducanu’s historic victory, McEnroe has stood by his previous assertions, insisting his comments were misinterpreted and blown out of proportion.
Speaking to CNN, the former US star 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.
“There’s a lot of great upsides, but there’s also pressure you put on yourself and expectations that others put on you. I mean that was, to me, as vanilla as it comes… I was very supportive of her, I thought, at the time.
“You know the papers over in England. Sometimes they make a big deal out of, to me, nothing.”
While he refused to retract his statement from Wimbledon, McEnroe did praise the British star for her performance in New York, describing it as “insane” and admitting Billie Jean King has been proven right in believing “pressure is a privilege.”
“I don’t think you could possibly do it any better than she did it when the US Open. Are you kidding me? That’s insane, and that she’s been able to do this now there’s going to be obviously a lot more focus on it. It’s incredible.
“If Billie Jean King says pressure is a privilege, I believe her. She’s done more for women’s sports and maybe sports in general than anyone in the last 100 years.
“I don’t know how she is turning it around over the last couple of months (since Wimbledon) but I’m sure a lot of people would like to find out.”
Having risen through the ranks to become British number one and the world number 23, Raducanu has proven every doubter and critic wrong so far. Given she is still just 18-years-old, there is no limit to what she can achieve in the future.