Andy Murray and Gary Lineker have defended Emma Raducanu after Piers Morgan backed BBC commentator John McEnroe over his comments the teenage tennis player found the pressure “a little too much” in her fourth round Wimbledon match.
On Monday night, 18-year-old London schoolgirl Raducanu retired from her Court One match against Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic on medical grounds.
During the second set, the A-Level student was seen gasping for air - prompting some to speculate she was suffering from hyperventilation or a panic attack.
Former Wimbledon champion McEnroe was heavily criticised on social media for jumping to the conclusion that Raducanu could not handle the pressure of being in the spotlight. He also conflated her withdrawal with Naomi Osaka’s mental health difficulties.
Morgan has since waded in - saying McEnroe was in the right adding Raducanu needed to "toughen up" if she was going to be a professional player.
McEnroe 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. She’ll get some nice wild cards into events now.”
Morgan wrote on Twitter: “McEnroe told the truth. Ms Raducuna’s a talented player but couldn’t handle the pressure & quit when she was losing badly. Not ‘brave’, just a shame. If I were her, I’d tell my fans to stop abusing McEnroe, & seek his advice on how to toughen up & become a champion like he was.”
But two time Wimbledon champion Murray responded to McEnroe, writing: “Think this is a very harsh take on the situation Piers”.
While Gary Lineker posted an image of Morgan’s infamous walk-out of the Good Morning Britain studio in the fallout of the Harry and Meghan Oprah Winfrey interview, and wrote: “Happens to the best of us, even those that aren’t suffering from a possible injury or illness. “
Dr Alex George, an A&E doctor and former Love Island contestant was among those to hit out at McEnroe’s words, writing online: “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.”
He added: “Mental strength and resilience are not dirty words. They’re good things that need to be taught, nurtured, encouraged & celebrated from school onwards. This would be immeasurably easier if so many high profile people stopped playing the victim."
Murray also took to Twitter to question comments from former England cricketer Kevin Pieterson, who also weighed into the debate.
Pieterson wrote: “Talent is one thing, but mental toughness is what separates the good from the great in sport! Dealing with pressure, bad form, negative media etc is HARD, but that’s sport. It’s demanding. Deal with it, or someone else will deal with it in your place!”
But Murray responded: “No question mental toughness can be what separates the best in sport but surely both of you aren’t judging her mental toughness on yesterday’s match?!”
Raducanu’s match was put third on Court One instead of second, which is the normal protocol ahead of the quarter-finals on Tuesday. This meant it was 8pm by the time the contest began under the roof, with an expectant crowd ready to cheer on the new home star after an anxious day for the teen awaiting to get on court.
In a statement made today about scheduling, Wimbledon said: "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 of 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 courts 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."