John McEnroe was criticised by Ajla Tomljanovic after the BBC commentator implied Emma Raducanu could not “handle it” following the Brit’s retirement from their last-16 match at Wimbledon on Monday night.
The three-time men’s champion claimed “it just got a little bit too much” for Raducanu, who withdrew on medical grounds trailing 3-0 in the second set against Tomljanovic.
Raducanu had suffered breathing difficulties during the second set but McEnroe immediately suggested the incident could be comparable with the recent struggles of Naomi Osaka, who pulled out of several tournaments citing depression and anxiety.
“It appears that it just got a little bit too much, as is understandable, particularly [with] what we’ve been talking about this last six weeks with Naomi Osaka not even here,” McEnroe said.
But Tomljanovic, who will now face Ashleigh Barty in the quarter-finals on Tuesday, said: “For him to say that, it’s definitely harsh. I have experienced something similar but not to that extent. I know that it’s a real thing. I’ve spoken to athletes that have gone through that. It’s not easy.”
McEnroe had also suggested the 18-year-old, whose trainer had been heard telling her “to take deep breaths” and was seen holding her stomach, would not be deserving of an invite 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.”
On Tuesday night, the BBC insisted that McEnroe was being sympathetic to Raducanu despite the controversy around his comments. “John McEnroe offered his personal view on the pressures that tennis players face, based on both his own experience and those of current players," a statement sent to Telegraph Sport said. "He was sympathetic to Emma’s situation.”
World No 75 Tomljanovic, who played superbly to fend off the youngster in the first set, saving break points at 4-4, is through to her first Grand Slam quarter-final where she will face top seed and compatriot Ash Barty on Tuesday.
"I am actually shocked because Emma must be hurt if she came to the decision to retire," the 28-year-old Tomljanovic said on court. "I am really sorry for her, I wish we could have finished it. I am wishing her all the best.
"I thought I found my groove although Emma was hurt and not at her best which kind of explains it."