Tennis star Andy Murray has come to British teenager Emma Raducanu’s defence after Piers Morgan said she should “toughen up” following her mid-match retirement at Wimbledon.
The 18-year-old wildcard had been noticeably struggling to breathe and, after consulting with medics, she walked off Court One for a timeout.
Shortly afterwards, the chair umpire announced Raducanu could not continue with her fourth-round clash to groans of disappointment from the crowd.
In BBC commentary of the incident on Monday night, former tennis champion John McEnroe told viewers “it appears it got a bit too much” for Raducanu, adding it was “understandable”.
He then compared the incident to when four-time major champion Naomi Osaka pulled out of the previous Grand Slam tournament, the French Open, and also missed Wimbledon because she said she needed a mental health break.
McEnroe came under fire on social media, with some users saying his comments were “out of order”, while others said it was “disappointing” that he jumped to the conclusion that Raducanu was struggling with her mental health.
Former Good Morning Britain presenter Piers Morgan lambasted online criticism of McEnroe and said he had “told the truth” about Raducanu.
Misspelling her name, he tweeted: “Ms Raducuna’s a talented player but couldn’t handle the pressure & quit when she was losing badly.
“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.”
I think some of what he said was fair yes.. however 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.
— Andy Murray (@andy_murray) July 6, 2021
Two-time Wimbledon champ Murray, 34, responded: “Think this is a very harsh take on the situation Piers”.
Morgan then hit back: “Well, I just felt the reaction to what McEnroe said was absurdly OTT. Didn’t you?”
In another tweet, he said: “He’d have said exactly the same to a young male player in same situation and nobody would have abused him for it.”
Murray responded by saying that some of what McEnroe said “was fair”, but added, “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.”
Away from the exchange with Murray, Morgan tweeted that people in professional sport “have to learn to handle the pressure and criticism”.
Meanwhile, Wimbledon organisers have sent their best wishes to Raducanu as they defended the scheduling of her fourth-round match against Tomljanovic.
The contest was the final match on Court One despite all the other women’s ties having been played earlier in the day ahead of the quarter-finals on Tuesday.
The All England Club said in a statement: “We were very sad to see Emma forced to withdraw from her match last night and wish her all the best with her recovery.
“She should be commended for the poise and maturity she has shown throughout the Wimbledon fortnight and we very much look forward to welcoming her back to Wimbledon next year and in the years to come.”
The statement added: “In respect of scheduling, as always, the scheduling of the order of play each day at the Championships is a complex operation and, although we take great care when scheduling matches and allocating courts on a daily basis, it is not an exact science.
“All decisions are made with fairness and the best interests of the tournament, players, spectators and our worldwide broadcast audience at heart, but the unpredictable nature of the length of matches and the British weather can and will cause disruption to any schedule.”
Radacanu has since tweeted saying she is feeling “much better” and has apologised for the match ending “the way it did”, and explained she had felt dizzy and was suffering from breathing difficulties after some “super intense rallies”.
<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>thank you for the support❤️ <a href=”https://t.co/C47TTvOQK9″>pic.twitter.com/C47TTvOQK9</a></p>— Emma Raducanu (@EmmaRaducanu) <a href=”https://twitter.com/EmmaRaducanu/status/1412423562577780746?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>July 6, 2021</a></blockquote>
Raducanu had lost the first set 6-4 and was 3-0 down in the second to the world number 75 when she received medical attention courtside from the trainer and doctor.
The teenager did not take part in a press conference but Wimbledon officials confirmed late on Monday night that the reason for Raducanu’s retirement had been “difficulty breathing”.
Her opponent, Tomljanovic, said: “I can’t imagine being in her shoes, at 18, playing a fourth round in your home country. It’s something I can’t even imagine.”
When asked about McEnroe’s comments, she said: “For him to say that, it’s definitely harsh.”