A storm has erupted as sports star rush to defend Emma Raducanu after her frightening withdrawal from Wimbledon on Tuesday.
The 18-year-old sensation retired for medical reasons from her round of 16 clash against Australian Ajla Tomljanovic. Down 0-3 in the second set, after dropping the first 4-6, Raducanu appeared to be having difficulty breathing.
She called for the doctor and soon left the court for treatment, but never returned.
The teenager, who was playing in the main draw of a grand slam for the first time after securing a late wildcard entry, explained the situation in a statement released on Wednesday morning (NZT).
“I want to let everyone know that I am feeling much better,” Raducanu said.
“First up, I want to congratulate Ajla on an incredible performance and I’m sorry our match ended the way it did. I was playing the best tennis of my life in front of an amazing crowd this week and I think the whole experience caught up with me.
“At the end of the first set, after some super intense rallies, I started to breathe heavily and felt dizzy. The medical team advised me not to continue and although it felt like the hardest thing in the world not to be able to finish my Wimbledon on the court, I was not well enough to carry on.
“I want to thank the people who have cheered me on every single match, I wanted to win so badly for you! I also want to thank the All England Club, my team, the LTA, my parents and friends. Last night will go a long way to helping me learn what it takes to perform at the top.
“I will cherish everything we have achieved together this week and come back stronger! Can’t wait to see what’s next on my journey.”
Raducanu should seek advice on how to ‘toughen up’
Tennis legend John McEnroe was slammed for his commentary remarks, suggesting Raducanu was overwhelmed by the enormity of the situation. British media personality Piers Morgan agreed with the American.
“McEnroe told the truth. Ms Raducanu’s a talented player but couldn’t handle the pressure & quit when she was losing badly,” Morgan tweeted. “Not ‘brave’, just a shame.
“If I were her, I’d tell my fans to stop abusing McEnroe, & seek his advice on how to toughen up & become a champion like he was.
“Mental strength and resilience are not dirty words. They’re good things that need to be taught, nurtured, encouraged & celebrated from school onwards. This would be immeasurably easier if so many high profile people stopped playing the victim.”
English cricket legend Kevin Pietersen also weighed in.
“Talent is one thing, but mental toughness is what separates the good from the great in sport!” he wrote in response to Morgan. “Dealing with pressure, bad form, negative media etc is HARD, but that’s sport. It’s demanding.
“Deal with it, or someone else will deal with it in your place!”
Athletes, fans come to Raducanu’s defence
There was a savage backlash to both Morgan and Pietersen, as fans and athletes set them straight.
Tennis broadcaster Catherine Whitaker wrote to Pietersen: “You have 3.7 million followers and are telling them an 18-year-old girl who you didn’t know existed a week ago doesn’t have the mental toughness to be great, on the basis of a situation about which you don’t even have the full details? Shame on you.”
Tennis star Andy Murray told Morgan his take on it was “very harsh” and said while some of what McEnroe said was fair, “the timing of it was a bit off considering nobody had any clue what her issue was injury/illness/breathings issues etc at the time of his comments”.
In response to Pietersen and Morgan, Murray added: “No question mental toughness can be what separates the best in sport but surely both of you aren’t judging her mental toughness on yesterday’s match?!”
Tennis coach and Murray’s mum, Judy, also hit back. “Middle-aged men should generally avoid commenting on the physical or mental wellbeing of teenage girls. They will NEVER experience or fully understand that world,” she tweeted.
English football star Marcus Rashford was another who spoke out in support of Raducanu.
“It happened to me playing for the national team in U16s against Wales. I remember it to this day,” he wrote. “No explanation for it and it never happened again.
“You should be very proud of yourself. The country is proud of you. Glad to read you’re feeling better. Onwards and upwards.”
More social media users slammed Pietersen and Morgan for their comments. However, the cricketer claimed he had no idea Morgan was referring to what happened with Raducanu at Wimbledon, saying he was busy playing golf and was unaware of the teenage tennis’s star’s situation.
“I literally had no idea about anything tennis related this am until I got responses to my tweet,” he said. “I didn’t pile on anyone. I tweeted in general about something I know a lot about, having suffered at the hands of all sorts in my career.”
However, that excuse didn’t wash with everyone. Whitaker responded by saying: “So if Emma sees your tweet, makes the huge leap that you’re referring to her and is crestfallen, and potentially damaged for life, that’s on her is it? You won’t feel a modicum of guilt or responsibility?”
Morgan stood his ground, refusing to take a backwards step as people lined up to blast him on social media.
“Kevin Pietersen tells the truth about high level sport – which he played for two decades – so of course, he has to be promptly abused & shamed too by the spineless woke brigade. God, they’re so predictably pathetic,” he wrote.
“The pile-on has been against John McEnroe, and now me for agreeing with him. If you want to play professional sport in the public eye, you have to learn to handle the pressure and criticism. That’s not an attack, it’s just a fact.”
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