Is There Anything Wrong With Being Overwhelmed By The Big Occasion?


STARNBERG, July 9, 2021 (by Nicholas Sturdee)

Emma Raducanu’s withdrawal from her round of 16 match against Australian Ajla Tomljanović at Wimbledon has sparked an almighty debate on the legitimacy of quitting. All the usual social media heavyweights have come forward for a spot in the limelight and some of the opinions on offer are more worthy of consideration than others.

A lot of the strong emotion currently out there probably comes down to an underlying feeling of disappointment given that we’re not going to see a fairytale ending for the 18-year-old. Instead, it looks like Ashleigh Barty will win the championship after being priced in the 2021 Wimbledon women’s betting as the favourite. Even with bookmakers pricing in Barty’s favour, the winner is not yet set in stone.

For Raducanu, the next few weeks will be a time for healing as she looks to pick herself up from the shock of being unable to carry on. As we all know by now, Raducanu’s medical team have said that she was suffering from breathing difficulties and that a decision was taken on her behalf not to carry on with the contest. At the time, the 18-year-old was a set down and losing the second set 3-0. Naturally, the status of the game at the time has led to some accusing the Brit of throwing in the towel.

The tennis community and the sporting world at large have rallied around Raducanu and defended her from what they saw as malicious comments, with John McEnroe coming in for the lion’s share of criticism. Indeed, Andy Murray and Marcus Rashford were two big names that fiercely fought Raducanu’s corner.

Former England cricketer Kevin Pietersen and Piers Morgan saw it differently and questioned the youngster’s appetite for the rigours that come with the heat of battle. Like most social media debates, there was probably an overreaction on both sides with the nuanced approach that is needed for emotive subjects predictably missing in favour of a black and white view. Indeed, the answer perhaps lies somewhere in the middle but the question has to be asked, should there be more transparency around quitting?

In many respects, those throwing stones at Raducanu aren’t doing it because they dislike her as a person, but rather because they feel like they are being misled by her team. This is why so many people have formed opinions that are probably overly critical of the 18-year-old tennis star. If the party line had instead been one that was quite open about her being overwhelmed on tennis’s biggest stage, then there would have been an immediate outpouring of sympathy from every side. At the very least, it wouldn’t have ignited this furious debate.

The lasting problem with not being as transparent as one can be during these incidents is that it fans the flames of the ongoing discussion and creates a narrative that is hard to control.

In a perfect world, it is probably no one’s business what goes on in a Wimbledon locker room, regrettably, however, we don’t live in one and that is especially true for professional athletes. The spotlight is intense and unforgiving, but there is something to be said for controlling the narrative by being as straightforward as possible.