(Reuters) - John McEnroe was met with a backlash after his comments about Emma Raducanu when she retired from Wimbledon in July but the American said he was "very supportive" of her at the time and praised the Briton for her stunning U.S. Open victory.
Making her major debut, Raducanu retired from her last-16 Wimbledon match due to breathing difficulties, while McEnroe, commentating on the match for the BBC, said the occasion appeared to get "a little bit too much" for her.
While McEnroe came under fire for the comments, the three-time Wimbledon champion said they had been blown out of proportion.
"I meant exactly what I said," McEnroe told CNN host Christiane Amanpour in an interview.
"I tried to relate it in a small way to my experience when I first went to Wimbledon also at 18.
"There's a lot of great upsides, but there's also pressure you put on yourself and expectations that others put on you. I mean that was to me as vanilla as it comes ... I was very supportive of her, I thought, at the time.
"You know the papers over in England. Sometimes they, like, make a big deal out of, to me, nothing."
Raducanu, 18, stunned the sports world https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/new-york-minute-everything-changed-us-open-champion-raducanu-2021-09-12 last weekend when she beat fellow teenager Leylah Fernandez to become the first qualifier to win a major title.
McEnroe said he had wondered how she would handle her new-found fame after her Wimbledon run.
"I don't think you could possibly do it any better than she did it (at the U.S. Open)," McEnroe added. "That's insane that she's been able to do this."
McEnroe also said he hopes to see Naomi Osaka return to action soon after the Japanese took a break from tennis.
"Osaka was someone who was very shy and introverted the first time I met her. I think she continues to be that way now," he said of the four-time major winner.
"She came out last year, made a big statement at the U.S. Open wearing the mask. It was a great thing.
"Now, all of a sudden, more attention is on her. I hope to God she can handle it because we need her around for another 10 years."
(Reporting by Manasi Pathak in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)