BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) Ilie Nastase was unrepentant on Monday after being suspended from the Fed Cup for abusing the British team and the referee in a playoff.
Nastase, the Romania captain, also didn’t believe his remarks about the unborn child of Serena Williams were racist.
On Friday, at a news conference in Romania, Nastase speculated on the skin color of Williams’ unborn child, immediately drawing accusations the comments were racist.
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”I want to know what word I used is racist?” he asked The Associated Press by phone on Monday from Budapest, Hungary. He added he was a friend of Williams.
The International Tennis Federation provisionally suspended Nastase from the Fed Cup on Sunday, a day after he hurled expletives at British player Johanna Konta, Britain captain Anne Keothavong and the umpire. The referee ejected Nastase from the tie.
”Yes, I lost my temper,” he said by phone.
But he didn’t believe his punishment was proportional.
”It was crazy, it was crazy,” he added.
Nastase earned the nickname ”Nasty” for his on-court outbursts and gamesmanship in his playing heyday in the 1970s. But it also described his game, which earned him seven Grand Slam titles, two in singles, and more than 100 ATP titles. He’s in the tennis hall of fame.
He said on Monday he’s been banned from Wimbledon’s Royal Box, but that wasn’t confirmed by Wimbledon. The All England club, where he was a singles finalist twice, said in a statement that guests were invited at its discretion, and suspensions were taken into account.
Reactions in Romania to Nastase’s outburst have been mixed.
George Cosac, the chairman of the Romanian Tennis Federation, defended Nastase by suggesting he was picked on by the British officials. Ion Tiriac, a businessman and Nastase’s old doubles partner, also stood by him, criticizing Konta for walking off the court.
However, many Romanians were critical of Nastase on social media, saying he embarrassed himself and Romania.
Nastase, also a former Davis Cup captain, suggested he was no longer a relevant figure in tennis.
”I am 71 years old” – though he does not turn that age until July – ”I am no longer a sportsman,” he said.