British teenager Emma Raducanu’s run at Wimbledon ended on Monday night in the fourth round, when she was forced to withdraw for medical reasons.
The 18-year-old tennis hopeful, who made her Wimbledon debut this year, had been visibly struggling to breathe and clutching her chest throughout the match with Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic. After consulting with her trainer and a doctor during the second set, she took a medical timeout where it was deemed she could not continue.
Wimbledon later confirmed the official reason given for Raducanu’s withdrawal was “difficulty breathing”.
Fans on social media expressed their sadness that Raducanu’s competition had to end under such circumstances, but congratulated her for her achievement despite coming into Wimbledon as an unknown with a world ranking of 338.
However, many viewers also expressed their anger and disappointment at the way her medical issues were being “belittled”.
Much of this backlash was directed at three-time Wimbledon men’s champion John McEnroe. Commentating for BBC Sport, McEnroe speculated that Raducanu could not handle the occasion, saying that it had “got a little bit too much”. He also compared the incident with Naomi Osaka’s recent experiences, which led to her withdrawing from the French Open and Wimbledon because of depression and anxiety.
McEnroe said:“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.”
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Many on social media spoke out about the lack of understanding and compassion in the commentary. “John McEnroe’s comments tonight towards Emma Raducanu were incredibly inappropriate, declaring it was just “nerves” that caused her to retire the match, not injury. She was clearly in pain and something was wrong. I don’t believe this would’ve been said about a male player,” tweeted one account.
The same user later noted “Also, if it was perhaps a panic attack, that is also not simply “nerves”. It can be a monstrous, debilitating pain both mental and physical. It would be lovely to see more respectful and compassionate commentary in future.”
The sexist and misogynistic undertones of McEnroe’s comments were pointed out. “John Mcenroe’s post match commentary about Emma was disgraceful. Such misogynistic comments about an 18 year old,” wrote one tweeter.
“Why, when Andy Murray started playing big matches and getting leg cramps, was it accepted as part of transition to top-level tennis, yet when Emma Raducanu takes a *medical* time out the “girl” has found it “too much” and is “emotional”? Totally unfair by John McEnroe,” another asked.
Broadcaster Harriet Minter tweeted: “Listening to the John McEnroe commentary about Emma Raducanu. Two things: 1. Is he drunk? 2. Is there anything more annoying than a man telling a woman she’s not hurt she’s just emotional? No, no there isn’t. Please ask him to stop.”
“Not sure if I like John McEnroe’s tone talking about Emma Raducanu as if she’s just a little girl who just couldn’t take the pressure like the other little girls including Naomi Osaka,” commented another user.
A few on social media did defend McEnroe’s take, and instead highlighted the circumstances that may have led to Raducanu’s withdrawal. “He was just saying how much the emotions of being on centre court can affect someone so young,” said one user.
Another noted: “Emma Raducanu will have been dealing with a huge adrenaline build up for about 10 hours today, making her wait until 8pm to start the biggest game of her life by some distance was a bizarre decision from the Wimbledon organisers.”