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Raducanu in an England shirt - Emma Raducanu explains Wimbledon retirement: 'The whole experience caught up with me'

Raducanu in an England shirt – Emma Raducanu explains Wimbledon retirement: ‘The whole experience caught up with me’

Emma Raducanu has revealed how an “accumulation” of “excitement” and “buzz” contributed to the breathlessness that ended her Wimbledon fairy tale.

The 18-year-old recognised the frenzied excitement around her had taken its toll as she was forced to retire in the second set of her last-16 match. She said, however, that the wave of goodwill at her history-making exploits had contributed to “the best week of my life”.

Raducanu, the youngest Briton to reach the fourth round since 1959, had been forced to retire against Alja Tomljanovic while trailing 6-4, 3-0. After receiving messages of support from both Sir Andy Murray and Marcus Rashford, she explained for the first time what had gone wrong.

“I think that it was a combination of everything that has gone on behind the scenes in the last week and accumulation of the excitement, the buzz,” she added. “It’s a great learning experience for me going forward. It’s a great step forward and now next time hopefully I’ll be better prepared.”

In the space of eight days at SW19, Raducanu’s life has changed forever. She has gone from around 1,000 followers on Instagram to around 250,000. “My Instagram actually blocked me out” as a result, she said. “I think they thought I was a robot or something.”

Appearing for a BBC interview wearing an England football jersey, Raducanu said she was excited about the prospect of watching the match at her home with her parents. “It’s coming home, isn’t it,” she said, predicting a 2-1 semi-final victory against Denmark. Looking back on her Wimbledon senior debut, Raducanu refused to criticise schedulers for putting her match against Tomljanovic on last. Sources close to her camp said she had been on-site from 10.30, but she dismissed the suggestion this could have been a factor in her breathless episode and said the problems had only emerged midway through the match.

“I found it very difficult to regulate my breathing,” she explained. “I think that it was emphasised by some very long rallies that we had towards the end of the first set, which made it tough for me to keep my composure and the breathing in check.” In a statement to her social media followers, Raducanu wrote that “the whole experience caught up with me”, leading to a spell of dizziness and disordered breathing that forced her to leave Court No 1 just when she was trying to fight her way into the quarter-finals.

Immediately after her post, Rashford, the Manchester United striker who is with the England squad, said the same problem had “happened to me playing for the national team in U16s against Wales”. “I remember it to this day,” he tweeted. “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 your feeling better. Onwards and upwards.”

Murray had also leapt to her defence after Piers Morgan and former England cricketer Kevin Pietersen reignited a row over the teenager’s mental state. Both Morgan and Pietersen expressed support for John McEnroe, who had been condemned for saying she could not “handle” the pressure immediately after the match. Raducanu, however, had no time for regrets, saying she had played in front of “maybe 100 people” prior to last week. “It’s been the best week of my life, honestly,” she added.

Wimbledon defended itself from criticism that Raducanu was put on late to allow the BBC to show her in action on peak time coverage. Raducanu said playing later was “louder” and “a bit hotter” because the roof was closed, but she denied any suggestion that the long wait to play had been a factor in her medical issue. “I think that I was prepared to go out there whatever time of day,” she added.

“I was so excited – I didn’t find a problem with it at all. To be able to have the opportunity to go on Court 1 is something that I cherished, and I really appreciate so there’s no problem.” The whole week, she said, “has just been absolutely incredible”. “I’ve never felt support like it,” she added.

Raducanu was due to return home in Bromley on Tuesday night after being released from her bubble. She had yet to see her father, Ian, and Renee, her mother. In her message to her followers, she further explained how the bout of breathlessness had brought her onslaught to an end in sad circumstances. “I think the whole experience caught up with me,” she added.

“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 want to thank the people who have cheered me on every single match. I wanted to win so badly for you.”

What happened during the match?

From early in the match Raducanu seemed to be struggling physically and mentally with the battle.

She called the trainer to the court while trailing Tomljanovic by a 6-4, 3-0 margin, and was told “nice slow breaths, that’s it” and was seen holding her stomach.

Emma Raducanu takes a moment during the match - AFPEmma Raducanu takes a moment during the match - AFP

Emma Raducanu takes a moment during the match – AFP

Emma Raducanu appeared to hold her stomach during the match - AFPEmma Raducanu appeared to hold her stomach during the match - AFP

Emma Raducanu appeared to hold her stomach during the match – AFP

Covid protocols then required Raducanu to put on a face mask as she left the court, which was possibly the last thing she wanted to do as she gasped for air.

After a delay of about five minutes, the referee came out and chair umpire Aurelie Torte announced to the crowd that the match was over.

The end arrived abruptly and unexpectedly. A Wimbledon spokesperson later said that the Briton had withdrawn with “breathing difficulties”.

Was the scheduling of the match a factor?

Wimbledon defended its scheduling of Raducanu’s fourth-round match as the third and final encounter on No1 Court, which meant she did not start playing the match for nore than nine hours after arriving on site.

A statement read: “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.

“In respect to 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 court 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.”

Raducanu denied that the scheduling had been a factor in her withdrawal.

“I was prepared to go out there whatever time of day I was required to,” she said. “I was so excited. I didn’t find a problem with it at all. Just to go on Court 1 was something I cherished. There was no problem.”

What was said about Raducanu’s retirement?

Anne Keothavong, the former British player and current Billie Jean King Cup captain, was watching two seats away from Raducanu’s mother, Renee, on Court No 1, and saw the 18-year-old after her retirement.

She told the BBC: “Emma’s ok – she’s going to be fine. I saw her leave [Wimbledon] last night and it was a difficult situation for her to be in and for everyone to witness, but she’ll be just fine.”

Keothavong admitted the sight of Raducanu being forced to retire was painful for her family, but insisted that neither the scheduling or her preparation for the match were to blame.

She added: “Her mum wanted to see her. It’s never easy for anyone to see their child in that much discomfort. But they’re a tight family, good people, and they just want the best for her. I’m sure they will be able to give that to her.

Emma's mother Renee after the match ended for medical reasonsEmma's mother Renee after the match ended for medical reasons

Emma’s mother Renee after the match ended for medical reasons

“In terms of her preparation, her and her team did everything exactly the same – they prepared exactly the same as they did for her other matches. She purposefully stayed over at Aorangi rather than practising on the main courts to stay out of the public [eye]. It was just unfortunate.

“Had she played earlier in the day, a similar thing may have unfolded. It was always going to be a difficult match given the hype and the buzz around it but she will learn from this. It was a fantastic Wimbledon debut and next year she will be better prepared and stronger for it.”

What did John McEnroe say?

John McEnroe was criticised on social media for jumping to the conclusion that Raducanu could not handle the occasion and comparing her withdrawal with Naomi Osaka’s decision not to compete at Wimbledon in order to protect her mental health.

The three-time men’s champion said on the BBC: “I feel bad for Emma. It appears that it got a little bit too much, as is understandable, particularly what we’ve been talking about these last six weeks with Naomi Osaka not even here.

“How much can players handle? Hopefully she’ll learn from this experience.

“Maybe it’s not a shame that it happened right now, when she’s 18. I think, seeing this, expectations drop a little bit, allow her to take a couple of deep breaths.”

McEnroe also suggested the 18-year-old would probably not get an invitation to the US Open.

“Allow her to take some deep breaths and maybe get some wildcards,” he added. “She’ll probably get one for the Australian Open but I’m not sure about the US Open.”

Andy Murray stepped into the row later on Tuesday when he accused Piers Morgan and Kevin Pietersen — who both appeared to back-up McEnroe’s view — of not fully understanding the situation.

Raducanu’s 28-year-old opponent also criticised McEnroe for his comments in a post-match interview.

“For him to say that, it’s definitely harsh. I have experienced something similar but not to that extent,” Tomljanovic said. “I can’t imagine how she must be feeling having to pull out. Being down 6-4 3-0, you can come back from that quickly, especially on grass. It’s really sad that she had to do that.”

What’s next for Raducanu?

This whole experience was the steepest of learning curves, and as a high-powered student who is expected to return As or even A*s in her maths and economics A-levels, Raducanu will be well-placed to digest and analyse what went wrong over the coming weeks.

The 18-year-old is ranked 338th and received a wild-card invitation from the All England Club so she could make her Grand Slam debut and participate in only her second tour-level event. It is expected she will now get more wild-card invitations.

A new world of megabucks brand endorsements also beckons for the down-to-earth Bromley teenager whose career earnings before Wimbledon stood at £28,762. British tennis’s new golden girl’s “smile alone” has been valued by marketeers at £3 million.

Her long list of new business interests will be spearheaded by Max Eisenbud, one of sport’s most powerful super agents.