John McEnroe stuck to his controversial comments about Emma Raducanu, where he hinted that she wasn’t able to “handle it” last year at Wimbledon, and added that he also struggled with dealing with pressure as a young man.
Seven-time champion McEnroe received heavy criticism last year during the championship for his insinuation that Raducanu collapsed under the pressure after she retired from her fourth-round center court match due to respiratory problems.
But just days before Wimbledon kicked off, he reiterated that he has no regrets making 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 different,” he told reporters. “I’ve never met Emma, I might add that. I would like to at some point, obviously. I was just taking a guess at what I thought was going on, based on 45 years of professional acting. It’s not like she was the first person it happened to. Especially with mental health coming further. Naomi Osaka had mental health issues.
“When I was playing, you were supposed to grit your teeth and show it, hold on and that sort of thing. Now it’s becoming more of a talking point, rightfully so. A lot of times for these kids, it’s a lot to deal with when they don’t. are prepared for it. It will continue to happen. Simona Halep said she had the first panic attack of her life playing the Frenchman [Open]. If anything, I was trying to support [Raducanu] in a way, not knowing exactly what was going on. And I felt bad for her. I was surprised that she was able to come out of this and suddenly win the US Open. This takes it to another level. I’m on her side, just for the sake of the game, I’d like to see her reach her potential.”
McEnroe, 63, was no stranger to shining the spotlight as a player, and said she identified with the pressure Raducanu was facing during her shocking appearance at Wimbledon last summer.
Ahead of the British tennis player’s return on Monday, he compared the timing to his decision not to participate in the tournament in 1986 and 1987 – in part due to his mental health: “I try to be as honest as possible. [in commentary], I will continue to try to do this. Sport has given me a lot and I try… to give free advice if they are willing to listen. I went through things [as a player]sometimes I was overwhelmed.
“I haven’t played Wimbledon for two years. I felt it was too much for me. We didn’t sit down and discuss it that often. Would I wish I had done it now? No, I would have liked to have played it in a way. I gave up on two. opportunities to play… maybe some out of stubbornness, some of it might have been stupidity, but some of it was because I was feeling it was too much to handle.”
McEnroe also commented on what it will be like to cover Wimbledon next week without six-time main champion and fellow commentator Boris Becker by his side.
‘It’s a scam any way you look at it’
Becker was sentenced to two years and nine months in prison in April for hiding £2.5m in assets and loans to avoid paying off debt. Last month he was transferred to HMP Huntercombe in Oxfordshire and McEnroe said he looked forward to visiting him.
“Boris is a friend of mine, that’s awful,” McEnroe said. “I don’t know where he is. I think they’ve moved him somewhere, I want to see him if I can, if he’s willing to see people or can. I feel terrible.
“He’s one of the great players who’s ever played. He’s been through a lot for a long time. He kept telling me everything would be okay, you know, it’s under control. This is Boris, he was very confident But sometimes you don’t is necessarily a big investor, you don’t take care of your money off the court either… . It’s a caricature of the way you look at it.”
John McEnroe is part of the BBC’s Wimbledon 2022 lineup. See all the action on BBC TV, radio and online from Monday 27 June