British tennis player Emma Raducanu was forced to withdraw from her round 16 Wimbledon match against Australian Ajla Tomljanovic on Monday after experiencing some breathing difficulties and dizziness on court.
The 18-year-old, who is ranked 338th in the world, was criticised by former Wimbledon champion and commentator John McEnroe, who implied Raducanu was not mentally tough enough to compete, and that the occasion had “got a little bit too much” for her.
Others, including Piers Morgan, said the tennis star decided to quit the match because she was losing, and that she had decided to play the “victim”.
“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.”
Former cricket player Kevin Pieterson also decided to weigh in on social media, writing: “Talent is one thing, but mental toughness is what separates the good from the great in the sport!”
Talent is one thing, but mental toughness is what separates the good from the great in sport!— Kevin Pietersen🦏 (@KP24) July 6, 2021
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! https://t.co/nrZucT0p0D
These comments, notably all from men decades older than Raducanu, who is still a teenager, completely ignored the fact that the medical team on court had advised her to withdraw from the match. It really had nothing to do with how mentally tough she is, she was simply following medical advice.
“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,” Raducanu said in a statement following the match.
“Last night will go a long way to helping me learn what it takes to perform at the top.”
thank you for the support❤️ pic.twitter.com/C47TTvOQK9— Emma Raducanu (@EmmaRaducanu) July 6, 2021
Two-time Wimbledon champion Andy Murray told Morgan on Twitter that his take on Raducanu’s mental strength was “very harsh”. Murray also responded to Pieterson’s comments in support of Raducanu.
“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?!” Murray wrote.
When Morgan mentions “high-profile” people that should stop “playing the victim”, it isn’t hard to see he may be referring to World No. 2 Naomi Osaka, who he previously criticised when she decided to withdraw from her media rounds at the French Open.
At the time, Morgan said Osaka was a “narcissist” who exploited the issue of mental health. Osaka said she was suffering from severe anxiety and needed a break.
Until June, Raducanu had never contested a match on the WTA tour, and had been finishing her school exams. At Wimbledon, she became the youngest British player in the open era to reach the fourth round of the competition. At the time of her withdrawal, she was the only remaining British player at Wimbledon, having impressed in her previous matches.
The teenager was mature enough to apologise to her opponent Ajla Tomljanovic for the match having ended the way it did, and acknowledged that the whole experience had “caught up with her”.
As tennis coach Judy Murray wrote on social media, there’s no way older, male commentators can understand the pressure and circumstances of young women who are thrown into the spotlight.
“Middle-aged men should generally avoid commenting on the physical or mental well-being of teenage girls. They will NEVER experience or fully understand that world,” she said.
Middle-aged men should generally avoid commenting on the physical or mental well-being of teenage girls.— judy murray (@JudyMurray) July 6, 2021
They will NEVER experience or fully understand that world. pic.twitter.com/ZdWcpnsnvw