Nastase made headlines when he was removed from the stadium during a Fed Cup match Saturday between his team and visiting Britain after he made highly derogatory comments toward a host of people. Among them was Britain’s Johanna Konta, who left the court in apparent emotional distress.
The 70-year-old former world No. 1, whose nickname during his playing days was “Nasty,” was already in trouble from the comments he made at a Saturday news conference about Williams’s pregnancy.
“Let’s see what color it has. Chocolate with milk?” he was heard to say about the unborn child — the offspring of Williams and fiance Alexis Ohanian, who is white — during a news conference.
When reached by the Associated Press on Monday, Nastase was unapologetic.
“I want to know what word I used is racist?” he asked from Budapest, while adding that he is a friend of Williams.
It was a tense scene Saturday where, according to UK’s the Press Association, Nastase first asked the umpire, “What’s your f—ing problem?” He then appeared to call Britain’s captain, Anne Keothavong, and Konta “f—ing b——.” Konta then left the court in tears with her teammates and play was suspended for 20 minutes before she returned to beat Irina-Camelia Begu in straight sets.
On Sunday, the International Tennis Federation announced that Nastase had been given a provisional suspension, which means that he “may not participate in the Fed Cup in any capacity with immediate effect.” Nastase also will be “denied access to any ITF event, including the Fed Cup,” pending further investigation into “a breach of the Fed Cup welfare policy.”
Nastase told the AP that he did not believe his punishment was proportional to his actions.
Nastase also confronted Eleanor Crooks, who was covering the match for the Press Association. (Warning: Vulgar language.)
This was the second time in a month that Nastase had made a derogatory comment about Williams. He previously had accused her of doping based purely on her physique.
The president of Romania’s tennis federation said Nastase’s comments about Williams are okay because “he’s a very good friend with Yannick Noah” — a black former tennis champion from France.
Nastase also made what appeared to be unwelcome advances toward Keothavong during Thursday’s official dinner that preceded Saturday’s Fed Cup tie. According to reports, Nastase repeatedly asked Keothavong for her hotel room number and then put his arm tightly around Keothavong’s shoulder during a photo session. Keothavong is married and 18 weeks pregnant.
Nastase was the world’s No. 1 player in 1973 and ’74 and won two Grand Slam titles but was better known for his combative style on the court.