Tennis’ crabby uncle John Enroe upset the tennis community after he suggested that Emma Raducanu succumbed to the pressure of the spotlight at Wimbledon in July and it resulted in her early exit.
Here’s what McEnroe said about Raducanu back in Wimbledon:
“I feel bad for Emma, obviously. 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 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.”
The young tennis player, however, cited “breathing issues” as the reason for her early departure from Wimbledon.
Now that Raducanu is back in the spotlight as the new Women’s Singles champ at the US Open, McEnroe’s take has resurfaced. For his part, McEnroe has doubled down on his seemingly innocuous statements.
McEnroe was asked about the comments during an interview on CNN, to which he responded: “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,” admitted McEnroe. “[Raducanu] did better than I did. I played Jimmy Connors, I hadn’t been on the Center Court and I remember my legs shaking, feeling totally overwhelmed by the experience and almost happy that I didn’t win.”
The tennis legend also added some praise for the new champ. “To win the US Open without losing a set, that’s crazy. She’s a tremendous athlete, she seems like a great kid.”
Though McEnroe’s initial comments were branded as “offensive” and “too harsh” as the conversation on the importance of mental health arises with contemporary athletes, the tennis star has been brutally honest about maintaining excellence in a sports he knows well.
With Emma Raducanu joining Naomi Osaka as prominent figures in tennis who have been outspoken about their personal struggles, the forum remains open for previous generations of tennis stars to chime in on how the modern landscape of the sport differs from the old school.
As the culture shifts from one generation to the next, it’s always beneficial to include a staple from the sport to give that insight — whose sole purpose in retirement is to keep both eras accountable. For better or worse, John Patrick McEnroe’s that guy.
Follow along on Twitter: @AlejandroAveela