John McEnroe backed up his controversial comments about Emma Radukan where he hinted she couldn’t “do it” at last year’s Wimbledonand added that he also struggled to cope with the pressure as a young player.
Seven-time world champion McEnroe came under fire last year during the Championships for his reflexive statement that Raducanu could not stand the pressure after she withdrew from a fourth-round match on Center Court due to breathing problems.
But just a few days before Wimbledon, he repeated that he did not regret the comments about the US Open champion and said they contributed to an important conversation about players’ mental well-being.
“I wouldn’t say anything else,” he told reporters. “I never met Emma, I must add. I would at some point, obviously. I just made an educated guess as to what I think is going on based on 45 years of experience in the professional game. Not that she’s the first person this has happened to. Moreover, mental health comes to the fore. Naomi Osaka had mental health issues.
“When I played, you had to bite the bullet and get naked, stand up and stuff like that. Now this is becoming more of a discussion point, and rightfully so. “There are many problems when they are not ready for it. This will continue to happen. Simone Halep said she had the first panic attack of her life while playing in France. [Open]. Anyway, I tried to support [Raducanu] in some way, not knowing exactly what’s going on. And I felt sorry for her. I was amazed that she was able to come out of it and suddenly win the US Open. This takes it to a whole other level. I’m on her side, just for the sake of the game, I would like her to be able to reach her potential.”
McEnroe, 63, is no stranger to bright spotlights as a player and said he can understand the pressure Radukane was under during her shock performance at Wimbledon last summer.
Ahead of the return of the British tennis star on Monday, he compared the moment to his decision to miss the tournament in 1986 and 1987 – in part because of his mental health: “I try to be as honest as possible. [in commentary]I will keep trying to make it. Sport has given me a lot and I try to… give free advice if they are willing to listen to it. I went through things [as a player]I was overwhelmed.
“I haven’t played Wimbledon for two years. I felt it was too much for me. We don’t often sit down and talk about it. Would I like to do it now? somewhat. I turned down two opportunities to play…maybe it was partly stubborn, partly stupid, but partly because I felt it was too hard to handle.”
McEnroe also commented on how he will cover Wimbledon next week. without the six-time Grand Champion and fellow expert Boris Becker by his side.
“It’s a parody no matter how you look at it”
In April, Becker was sentenced to two years and nine months in prison for hiding £2.5 million worth of assets and loans to avoid paying off debts. Last month he was transferred to HMP Huntercombe in Oxfordshire and McEnroe said he hoped to visit him.
“Boris is my friend, it’s just awful,” McEnroe said. “I don’t know where he is. I think he was moved somewhere, I want to see him if possible, if he wants to see people or can. I just feel terrible.
“He is one of the greatest players that has ever played this game. He’s been through a lot for a long time. He kept telling me that everything would be fine, you know, everything is under control. player on the court. But sometimes you’re not necessarily a great investor, you don’t care about your money off the court… But I don’t know if any of us expected it to come to this, to be honest. It’s a travesty no matter how you look at it.”
John McEnroe is part of the BBC Wimbledon 2022 team. Watch all the action on BBC TV, radio and online from Monday 27 June.