Emma Raducanu has written a message of reassurance to her fans, saying that she has made a strong recovery from the alarming events of Monday night, and will cherish her achievements at this year’s Wimbledon.
But Raducanu also admitted that “the whole experience caught up with me”, leading to a spell of dizziness and disordered breathing that forced her to leave Court No1 just when she was trying to fight her way into the quarter-final.
Having become the youngest Briton to reach the fourth round of Wimbledon since Christine Truman in the late 1950s, 18-year-old Raducanu was forced to retire from her match against Alja Tomljanovic with breathing difficulties while trailing by a 6-4, 3-0 scoreline.
On Tuesday afternoon, she explained the circumstances around her shock exit in a short post on social media, stressing the physical strain of competing with such a strong and heavy-hitting opponent.
“Hi guys,” Raducanu said, “I wanted to let everyone know that I am feeling much better this morning. First up, I want to congratulate Ajla on an incredible performance and I’m sorry our match ended the way it did.
“I was playing the best tennis of my life in front of an amazing crowd this week and I think the whole experience caught up with me. At the end of the first set, after some super intense rallies, I started to breathe heavily and felt dizzy.
“The medical team advised me not to continue and although it felt like the hardest thing in the world not to be able to finish my Wimbledon on the court, I want to thank the people who have cheered me on every single match.
“I wanted to win so badly for you. I also want to thank the All England Club, my team, the Lawn Tennis Assocation, my parents and friends. Last night will go a long way to helping me learn what it takes to perform at the top."
Speaking to the BBC, Raducanu went into a little more detail about the discomfort she experienced on court.
"I found it very difficult to regulate my breathing," she said. "It was emphasised by the long rallies towards the end of the first set. It made it hard to keep my breathing in check.
"The beginning of the second set was when I struggled with it the most and I called the trainer on.
"I don’t know what caused it. It was a combination of everything that has gone on behind the scenes in the last week…I’ve probably played in front of a 100 people before so to play on Court 1 was a great opportunity. To play in front of such a crowd, it’s been the best week of my life."
What happened during the match?
From early in the match Raducanu seemed to be struggling physically and mentally with the battle.
She called the trainer to the court while trailing Tomljanovic by a 6-4, 3-0 margin, and was told “nice slow breaths, that’s it” and was seen holding her stomach.
Covid protocols then required Raducanu to put on a face mask as she left the court, which was possibly the last thing she wanted to do as she gasped for air.
After a delay of about five minutes, the referee came out and chair umpire Aurelie Torte announced to the crowd that the match was over.
The end arrived abruptly and unexpectedly. A Wimbledon spokesperson later said that the Briton had withdrawn with "breathing difficulties".
Was the scheduling of the match a factor?
Wimbledon defended its scheduling of Raducanu’s fourth-round match as the third and final encounter on No1 Court, which meant she did not start playing the match for nore than nine hours after arriving on site.
A statement read: “We were very sad to see Emma forced to withdraw from her match last night and wish her all the best with her recovery. She should be commended for the poise and maturity she has shown throughout the Wimbledon fortnight, and we very much look forward to welcoming her back to Wimbledon next year and in the years to come.
“In respect to scheduling, as always, the scheduling of the order of play each day at The Championships is a complex operation, and although we take great care when scheduling matches and allocating court on a daily basis, it is not an exact science. All decisions are made with fairness and the best interests of the tournament players, spectators and our worldwide broadcast audience at heart, but the unpredictable nature of the length of matches and the British weather can and will cause disruption to any schedule.”
Raducanu denied that the scheduling had been a factor in her withdrawal.
"I was prepared to go out there whatever time of day I was required to," she said. "I was so excited. I didn’t find a problem with it at all. Just to go on Court 1 was something I cherished. There was no problem."
What was said about Raducanu’s retirement?
Anne Keothavong, the former British player and current Billie Jean King Cup captain, was watching two seats away from Raducanu’s mother, Renee, on Court No 1, and saw the 18-year-old after her retirement.
She told the BBC: "Emma’s ok – she’s going to be fine. I saw her leave [Wimbledon] last night and it was a difficult situation for her to be in and for everyone to witness, but she’ll be just fine."
Keothavong admitted the sight of Raducanu being forced to retire was painful for her family, but insisted that neither the scheduling or her preparation for the match were to blame.
She added: "Her mum wanted to see her. It’s never easy for anyone to see their child in that much discomfort. But they’re a tight family, good people, and they just want the best for her. I’m sure they will be able to give that to her.
Emma's mother Renee after the match ended for medical reasons
"In terms of her preparation, her and her team did everything exactly the same – they prepared exactly the same as they did for her other matches. She purposefully stayed over at Aorangi rather than practising on the main courts to stay out of the public [eye]. It was just unfortunate.
"Had she played earlier in the day, a similar thing may have unfolded. It was always going to be a difficult match given the hype and the buzz around it but she will learn from this. It was a fantastic Wimbledon debut and next year she will be better prepared and stronger for it."
What did John McEnroe say?
John McEnroe was criticised on social media for jumping to the conclusion that Raducanu could not handle the occasion and comparing her withdrawal with Naomi Osaka’s decision not to compete at Wimbledon in order to protect her mental health.
The three-time men’s champion said on the BBC: "I feel bad for Emma. It appears that it got a little bit too much, as is understandable, particularly what we’ve been talking about these last six weeks with Naomi Osaka not even here.
"How much can players handle? Hopefully she’ll learn from this experience.
"Maybe it’s not a shame that it happened right now, when she’s 18. I think, seeing this, expectations drop a little bit, allow her to take a couple of deep breaths."
I didn’t realise John McEnroe was medically qualified or that he has X-ray vision! I hope Emma Raducanu is ok and wish her a speedy recovery. Did her country proud 🇬🇧
— Dr Alex (@DrAlexGeorge) July 5, 2021
Sorry, John McEnroe. You can’t give a harsh commentary of Emma Raducanu’s withdrawal from #Wimbledon without knowing what actually happened #raducanu @BBCSport
— Paul Arbuthnot 😷 (@PaulArbuthnot1) July 5, 2021
McEnroe also suggested the 18-year-old would probably not get an invitation 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."
Andy Murray stepped into the row later on Tuesday when he accused Piers Morgan and Kevin Pietersen — who both appeared to back-up McEnroe’s view — of not fully understanding the situation.
Raducanu’s 28-year-old opponent also criticised McEnroe for his comments in a post-match interview.
"For him to say that, it’s definitely harsh. I have experienced something similar but not to that extent," Tomljanovic said. "I can’t imagine how she must be feeling having to pull out. Being down 6-4 3-0, you can come back from that quickly, especially on grass. It’s really sad that she had to do that."
What’s next for Raducanu?
This whole experience was the steepest of learning curves, and as a high-powered student who is expected to return As or even A*s in her maths and economics A-levels, Raducanu will be well-placed to digest and analyse what went wrong over the coming weeks.
The 18-year-old is ranked 338th 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. It is expected she will now get more wild-card invitations.
A new world of megabucks brand endorsements also beckons for the down-to-earth Bromley teenager whose career earnings before Wimbledon stood at £28,762. British tennis’s new golden girl’s "smile alone" has been valued by marketeers at £3 million.
Her long list of new business interests will be spearheaded by Max Eisenbud, one of sport’s most powerful super agents.