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John McEnroe has no regrets about Emma Raducanu criticism ahead of her Wimbledon return

Mirror logo Mirror 23/06/2022 Fraser Watson

John McEnroe has stood by his criticism of Emma Raducanu's Wimbledon exit last year as the British teenager prepares to return to SW19.

The British No 1 was still largely unknown when she was handed a wildcard to the the sport's most famous grass-court event in 2021, but burst onto the scene by winning her first three games. That set up a last-16 clash with Croatia's Ajla Tomljanovic.

However, Raducanu visibly struggled throughout and, after losing the opening set, retired early on in the second. The teenager later cited breathing difficulties and sickness but her explanation was criticised by the notoriously outspoken McEnroe.

Live on BBC, the American said that things got "a little bit too much for her," a view which drew widespread criticism from those who felt seven-time Grand Slam champion was being insensitive. Raducanu however, soon seemingly offered the perfect riposte.

In September, she stunned the world by becoming the first qualifier in history to win a Slam event as she triumphed at the US Open, going through the tournament without losing a single set. As well as earning herself a dramatic rise in the world rankings, the Bromley-based star shot to superstardom, being crowned BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

But McEnroe, 63, remains defiant about his immediate reaction to her Wimbledon withdrawal, insisting: "I wouldn’t say anything different. I was just giving an educated guess as to what I thought was happening, based on 40 or 45 years being around the professional game."

Emma Raducanu had to pull out of the fourth round at Wimbledon after suffering breathing difficulties © AFP via Getty Images Emma Raducanu had to pull out of the fourth round at Wimbledon after suffering breathing difficulties

Speaking to the Daily Mail , he added that what happened to Raducanu in her maiden Grand Slam event was nothing unusual: "It happens all the time," he said. "It’s not like she’s the first person it’s happened to, this has been going on as far back as when I was playing.

‘You were supposed to grit your teeth and bear it and tough it out and this type of stuff. Now it’s becoming more of a discussion point, and rightfully so.

"A lot of times for these young guys and girls, it’s a lot to deal with. Simona Halep said she had the first panic attack of her life playing at the French Open. So this is something that’s being discussed more and more. If anything I was trying to be supportive of her [Emma]."

McEnroe also vowed to continue to be 'honest' about his assessment, although doubt does remain as to whether he, or any pundits or fans, will get to see the US Open champion in action at all. In her first-round match at Eastbourne this month, she withdrew just seven games in with a side injury.

She later took to Instagram to share an image of her using an oxygen chamber in a bid to aid her recovery before Wimbledon gets underway on June 27. She captioned the picture: "We're trying, no stone left unturned."

She is due to be seeded 10th for the tournament, with French Open winner Iga Swiatek taking the top spot. The women's and men's draws are void of Russian and Belarusian players, who have been banned amid the war in Ukraine.

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