‘I meant exactly what I said’: John McEnroe stands by his controversial questioning of Emma Raducanu’s mental strength at Wimbledon… and insists he meant to be SUPPORTIVE of the new US Open champion

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  • Emma Radukanu retires from her last-16 Wimbledon match on medical grounds
  • The 18-year-old Brit later revealed she was having difficulty breathing
  • John McEnroe insists that this opportunity was given to Radukanu on his SW19 debut
  • Tennis legend says he stands by comments about new US Open champion

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John McEnroe stands up to his comments questioning Emma Raducanu’s mental strength at Wimbledon earlier this year, just months before she became US Open champion.

The 18-year-old retired on medical grounds from his last-16 match against Ajla Tomljanovic in SW19 in July after he was seen holding his stomach on several occasions and hyperventilating before his return.

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The next day she revealed that she had ‘difficulty breathing’ and thought ‘the whole experience took hold of me’.

US Open Champion Emma Radukanu
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John McEnroe (left) stands by his comments questioning Emma Radukanu’s mental strength at Wimbledon

The 18-year-old retired from her last-16 bout in SW19 in July due to shortness of breath

The 18-year-old retired from her last-16 bout in SW19 in July due to shortness of breath

But his comeback has drawn criticism from some quarters, including 62-year-old McEnroe, who suggested the opportunity “just got a little bit too much” for him.

The seven-time Grand Slam winner now says he stands by his words, insisting his remarks were ‘vanilla’ and blown out of proportion.

‘I meant what I said,’ McEnroe US broadcaster told CNN in an interview on Tuesday.

‘I tried to connect it in a small way with my experience, when I went to Wimbledon for the first time, that too at the age of 18.

This prompted McEnroe to suggest that the stage was 'a little too much' for 18-year-old Radukanu.

This prompted McEnroe to suggest that the stage was ‘a little too much’ for 18-year-old Radukanu.

‘There are a lot of good benefits to this, but you put pressure on yourself and so are the expectations that others put on you. I mean, to me, vanilla as it comes… I used to be very supportive of that, I thought, at the time.

‘You know the papers in England. Sometimes they talk big for me, some don’t.

Redukanu, however, kept no doubt about her mental strength when she defeated fellow teenager Leyla Fernandez in straight sets in the final at Flushing Meadows to become the first qualifier to win a Major.

The new world number 23 – who has jumped 127 places since her US Open win – became the first British woman in 44 years to win a Grand Slam since Virginia Wade’s Wimbledon title in 1977.

Redukanu won the US Open two months later by defeating Leyla Fernandez in the final

Redukanu won the US Open two months later by defeating Leyla Fernandez in the final

McEnroe says the new British No 1’s achievement was ‘incredible’ and believes 39-time Grand Slam winner Billie Jean King is justified in believing ‘pressure is a privilege’.

“I don’t think you can do it in a better way than at the time of the US Open,” he said. ‘are you kidding with me? He’s crazy, and he’s able to do this now, obviously going to get a lot of attention. It’s amazing.

‘If Billie Jean King says pressure is a privilege, I believe her. She has done more for the women’s sport and probably more than anyone in general sports over the past 100 years.

‘I don’t know how she’s been turning it around in the last few months (since Wimbledon), but I’m sure a lot of people would like to find out.’

McEnroe’s opening remarks caused an uproar, saying that following Radukanu’s return to the All England Club live on BBC: ‘It appears it just got a little bit too much, as it is understandable, the special by way [with] We’ve been talking about this with Naomi Osaka for the past six weeks, not even here.

‘How much can players handle? It makes you look at the boys and girls who have been around for so long, how well they can handle it.

Radukanu is now the new British No. 1 and the first British women's singles champion since 1977

Radukanu is now the new British No. 1 and the first British women’s singles champion since 1977

‘These guys who can keep their composure and the girls out there are absolutely amazing – so we have to applaud the players who are able to do it so well and hopefully they will learn from this experience.’

Four-time Grand Slam singles winner Osaka withdrew from the French Open earlier this year over her mental health.

She took a break from the sport, also dropped out of Wimbledon, but returned in time for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and US Open, where she was defeated by top finalist Fernandez.

Osaka then said: ‘I feel for myself, lately, when I win, I don’t feel happy, I feel relieved. And then when I lose I feel very sad.

‘I don’t think it’s normal. Basically, I feel like I’m kind of at this point where I’m trying to figure out what I want to do, and I honestly don’t know when I’m going to play my next tennis match. .’

Naomi Osaka insists she doesn't know when she will play tennis again after her latest loss

Naomi Osaka insists she doesn’t know when she will play tennis again after her latest loss

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