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John McEnroe has backed Emma Raducanu after questioning whether the Brit could handle the pressure following her breakout at Wimbledon in 2021. The American has often been a staunch critic of the world No 1 but has appeared to make a U-turn as he backed her for more success in the future.
McEnroe has previously come under fire for his criticism of Raducanu, as he was one of the first to question whether she could “handle it” during her breakout Wimbledon run, which saw a then-world No 338 Raducanu receive a wild card to make her Grand Slam debut, storming to the fourth round before retiring with breathing difficulties.
The American has since defended his comments, later claiming he “wouldn’t say anything different” months later. But he appears to have changed his mind and is now backing the 20-year-old to get back to the top of tennis following her 2021 US Open victory as a qualifier, claiming she is too talented not to win more.
“I think the last year has been overwhelming, obviously,” McEnroe told Tennis365, reflecting on her first full season on the tour. “She has gone through a lot of changes in her life and now she has had issues with injuries.”
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The seven-time Grand Slam champion also noted that the pressure finally seemed to be off Raducanu’s shoulders after questioning whether it was something she’d be able to deal with in the past. He continued: “But it felt like for the first time the pressure was not on her and was on Coco Gauff when they played at the Australian Open and that is not a bad thing.
“Everyone in the tennis world is hopeful that she can embrace what’s happening with her and hope that she gets back to the level she showed at the US Open.” Referencing Raducanu’s 2021 Wimbledon run that ended in retirement and prompted McEnroe to question the Brit at the time, he added: “I saw her at Wimbledon that summer and when she didn’t come out to play in the round of 16 at Wimbledon, we were all worried she might struggle to cope with the change to her life.
“Then she went to New York and wow, what a performance to win a Slam.” The retired former No 1 also backed Raducanu to have a good year in 2023, also hinting that she had it in her to win more Majors.
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“We just all want to see her compete and enjoy the challenge in front of her and if she does that, I’m sure she can have a great year. That’s what we all want to see,” he said. “Ultimately, tennis is a competition and you have to find a way to deal with that. I wish Emma all the best.
“Let’s put this on the record. You don’t win a Grand Slam by luck. She is a great player and can come back and challenge again.”
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