Ilie Nastase apologises and says Serena Williams comment was ‘spontaneous’
Ilie Nastase has issued an apology for his conduct during Romania’s fiery Fed Cup tie against Great Britain last weekend.
The 70-year-old former world No1 has been provisionally suspended by the International Tennis Federation after a series of incidents in Constanta.
Nastase was overheard making an apparently racist comment about Serena Williams’ unborn baby at a press conference last Friday as well as asking GB captain Anne Keothavong for her hotel room number.
During the first day of the tie on Saturday, Nastase then verbally abused chair umpire Jaume Campistol and tie referee Andreas Egli before calling Keothavong and British No1 Johanna Konta “fucking bitches” as he was sent from the court.
The two-time grand slam champion was escorted from the venue by security staff and banned from the rest of the tie.
But he defied that by briefly returning the following day and had pointedly refused to apologise in interviews in the immediate aftermath, saying he had no regrets.
However, Nastase, who is waiting to find out his final sanction from the ITF, has now changed tack, albeit while still claiming the weekend’s events have been exaggerated.
In a statement on his Facebook page, which is unverified, Nastase said: “In the last few days, my name and the unfortunate situation at the Romania vs England (sic) Fed Cup match were present in both the national and international press. I do not wish to deny the negative reactions I’ve received, but I would like to add a few words of my own to this matter now, after a period of reflection.
“I was five when I first picked up a racket. Since then, tennis has been more than a sport or a profession for me. Tennis has been, and is, my life, and for tennis I have sacrificed almost everything, personal or professional.
“Unfortunately, now, in my 70s, I have somehow managed to do something I have never wanted or even imagined: to feel tennis moving further away from me.
“The last few days have been difficult for me. My words during the Fed Cup have rightfully caused controversy and upset the audience, the press and, most painfully for me, the tennis world.
“I will not attempt to defend my words, but I can assure you they only stemmed from my genuine desire to defend the Romanian team and Romanian tennis.
“I am fully aware that nothing can truly excuse my statements – not the tension of a high-stakes game, not my traditionally irreverent attitude, not the unfortunate escalation of the situation.
“My life remains dedicated to tennis and its audiences, so please accept my apologies, for whatever they may be worth right now.”
Nastase, though, again criticised Konta for complaining to Campistol about noise from the crowd during her match against Sorana Cirstea.
It was that which sparked Nastase’s foul-mouthed meltdown, with the match delayed in the aftermath after Konta broke down in tears.
The British No1 was subsequently criticised by the Romanian team for her reaction and for claiming she felt threatened by abuse from the crowd.
Nastase said: “What happened in Constanta has been exaggerated by all. Joanna (sic) Konta had no right to speak to the chairman (umpire), the team captain is the only one who can do this.
“I asked the chairman for some explanations in a civilized manner, but he sent me to the stand. In the stand, they withdrew my status as captain of the Romanian team and I became a simple spectator.
“After this, the referee suspended the match. I do not understand why he did it and based on what point from the regulation?”
Nastase was strongly rebuked by Williams for his comments about her unborn baby, with the 70-year-old heard to say: “Let’s see what colour it has. Chocolate with milk?”
He added: “The same problem was with the subject about Serena. I really respect Serena. She is one of the greatest tennis players of all times and I know how much work is behind these results.
“At that press conference, I was asked about Serena’s pregnancy. That was the first time I had heard about her pregnancy, and my reaction was spontaneous.”