England rugby union coach Eddie Jones is facing a backlash for his criticism of US Open champion Emma Raducanu as he suggested the “young girl” has let “distractions” affect her performance.
Speaking about exciting young rugby star Marcus Smith, Jones said: “The big thing for good young players is distractions. There’s a reason why the young girl who won the US Open hasn’t done so well afterwards.
“What have you seen her on – the front page of Vogue and Harper Bazaar or whatever it is, wearing Christian Dior clothes.
“All that is a distraction around her. It might not be to that degree with Marcus, but potentially it could be.”
Former British tennis No 1 Jo Durie called Jones’s comments sexist. “Emma isn’t a girl; she is an 18-year-old woman. No-one ever complains about blokes going to galas; it’s always something that is thrown at women,” Durie told the Telegraph. “Unfortunately, when you’re this famous, everybody likes to have their opinion about you.”
BBC sports presenter Gabby Logan said the comments were “unbelievably unfair and not even remotely comparable”, adding: “She is 18 in her first six months of being pro she made the second week of Wimbledon and won US Open having never played on the tour. Imagine an 18-year-old rugby player winning a World Cup having never played a club game.”
British tennis commentator David Laws said: “The comments by Eddie Jones about Emma Raducanu are uninformed, irresponsible, sexist nonsense.
“Young woman who has barely played professional tennis wins US Open, and he cites her commercial appearances as evidence for her ‘not doing so well’ (won 2, lost 2) since.”
Jones is the latest high-profile figure to voice an opinion on Raducanu’s career since her spectacular success in New York, with the 18-year-old’s decision not to continue with coach Andrew Richardson prompting an extraordinary amount of interest inside and outside tennis.
Jones’ criticism centred on Raducanu’s off-court activities. Since her victory at Flushing Meadows she has attended the Met Gala in New York and the premiere of the James Bond film No Time To Die in London and signed commercial deals with luxury brands Tiffany and Dior.
She has also played two tournaments – losing her first match as a grand slam champion in Indian Wells before winning her first two WTA Tour matches in Romania – and will contest her final event of the season this week as top seed at the Upper Austria Ladies Linz.
Raducanu has been praised since her junior days for her professionalism and attitude as she combined tennis with full-time education and she has repeatedly said that her focus is very much on the court despite the opportunities now afforded to her.
Speaking before Jones’ comments were made public, she said: “I don’t read any of the news or keep in touch with that much.
“I keep myself all quite small and I have a few people that I really trust and I get their opinions. The people that I would ask for their advice, I know pretty well personally. I do speak to some other people, some past champions.”