John McEnroe was criticised by Ajla Tomljanovic after the BBC commentator implied Emma Raducanu could not “handle it” following the Brit’s retirement from their last-16 match at Wimbledon on Monday night.
The three-time men’s champion claimed “it just got a little bit too much” for Raducanu, who withdrew on medical grounds trailing 3-0 in the second set against Ajla Tomljanovic.
Raducanu had suffered breathing difficulties during the second set but McEnroe immediately suggested the incident could be comparable with the recent struggles of Naomi Osaka, who pulled out of several tournaments citing depression and anxiety.
“It appears that it just got a little bit too much, as is understandable, particularly [with] what we’ve been talking about this last six weeks with Naomi Osaka not even here,” McEnroe said.
But Tomljanovic, who will now face Ashleigh Barty in the quarter-finals on Tuesday, said: “For him to say that, it’s definitely harsh. I have experienced something similar but not to that extent. I know that it’s a real thing. I’ve spoken to athletes that have gone through that. It’s not easy.”
McEnroe had also suggested the 18-year-old, whose trainer had been heard telling her “to take deep breaths” and was seen holding her stomach, would not be deserving of an invite to the US Open.
“Allow her to take some deep breaths and maybe get some wildcards,” he added. “She’ll probably get one for the Australian Open but I’m not sure about the US Open.”
World No 75 Tomljanovic, who played superbly to fend off the youngster in the first set, saving break points at 4-4, is through to her first Grand Slam quarter-final where she will face top seed and compatriot Ash Barty on Tuesday.
"I am actually shocked because Emma must be hurt if she came to the decision to retire," the 28-year-old Tomljanovic said on court. "I am really sorry for her, I wish we could have finished it. I am wishing her all the best.
"I thought I found my groove although Emma was hurt and not at her best which kind of explains it."
It was a disappointing end to a stunning first Grand Slam for Raducanu, who has long been touted as one of British tennis’s brightest hopes.
Raducanu actually had her pick of four different nations to represent: she was born in Toronto to a Romanian father and Chinese mother, before the family moved to London when she was two.
She took up tennis aged five, and her potential was spotted early by the LTA, who have supported her on the Pro Scholarship Programme, which provides assistance to Britain’s young players with the potential to reach the top 100 within five years.
Her parents, who both work in finance, were keen to ensure she remained well-balanced though and her hobbies include go-karting and motocross, and she has remained dedicated to her studies alongside tennis.
Only last month she completed A Levels in mathematics and economics while preparing for Wimbledon, and had not played a professional tournament since March 2020 before this one.
The 18-year-old, the youngest British woman to reach the second week at SW19 in the Open era, become an overnight sensation and was the only Brit to make it to the fourth round at this year’s tournament.
- Q&A: Emma Raducanu’s retirement – what happened, what was said and what’s next?
Raducanu entered Wimbledon as the world No 338 and received a wild-card invitation from the All England Club so she could make her Grand Slam debut and participate in only her second tour-level event.
Raducanu celebrates after her second round win over Marketa Vondrousova
But Raducanu has been impressing British tennis stalwarts like Heather Watson since she was 16, and Watson has described being stunned by the youngster lifting 200kg hip thrusts in the gym back in 2018.
Raducanu’s teachers said she was always "heading for great things". Ahead of her fourth round match, staff at Newstead Wood School in Orpington, Kent, said she was destined for success.
Headteacher Alan Blount told the PA news agency: "Emma has been with us since year seven when she was 11 years old and she’s always been tipped for great things.
"Obviously you can’t look into the future and you don’t know if it is going to come good, but we knew she was heading for great things. If everything was right she was going to be the next big thing and look, here she is."