British sports personalities have rallied to the defense of teenage tennis sensation Emma Raducanu after suggestions she quit her debut Wimbledon because she could not cope with the pressure.
The previously little-known 18-year-old, ranked 338 in the world, was the last of 14 British players who were still in the tournament. She won three matches that saw fans cheering her on their feet.
Her performance has been watched closely in Romania where tennis is popular as her father is Romanian. Her mother is Chinese and she was born in Canada.
On Monday, she was forced to retire against Australian Ajla Tomljanovic in the fourth round with breathing difficulties.
She was trailing trailing the Australian 6-4, 3-0 when she dropped out.
Former Wimbledon champion John McEnroe suggested the occasion “got a little bit too much” for the young star. Others slammed her on social media for quitting while she was losing.
TV personality Piers Morgan defended him. “Ms Raducuna’s a talented player but couldn’t handle the pressure & quit when she was losing badly. Not ‘brave’, just a shame.
There were comparisons with world No. 2 Naomi Osaka, who withdrew from the French Open this year, saying she suffered anxiety during media interviews after intense matches.
Ms Raducanu posted a message to fans on Tuesday saying she was feeling much better. She congratulated her opponent and apologized for the premature end to the match.
“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,” she tweeted.
She said she began breathing heavily and felt dizzy before she withdrew.
“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.”
Andy Murray, another former Wimbledon champion, said some of the criticism was overly harsh as nobody knew the details of her medical condition.
England footballer Marcus Rashford praised Ms Raducanu and said he’d had the same experience in an Under-16 game.
“I remember it to this day. No explanation for it and it never happened again,” he tweeted. “You should be very proud of yourself. The country is proud of you.”
Until a month ago, she hadn’t played a single match on the main WTA Tour and was just finishing school exams.
Wimbledon authorities issued a statement wishing Raducanu a good recovery and looking forward to future appearances in the tournament.
“She should be commended for the poise and maturity she has shown,” they added.