Ilie Nastase may have retired from tennis 32 years ago, but he appears to be still more than living up to his old nickname: “Nasty.”
The 70-year-old Romanian, a two-time grand slam winner and former world No. 1, was provisionally suspended by the International Tennis Federation, or ITF, on Sunday from all its events for his behavior at a Fed Cup match.
Nastase hurled abuse at the chair umpire and the opposition during Romania’s World Group II playoff tie against Great Britain in the Black Sea resort of Constanta.
Nastase, the Romanian team captain, had been thrown out of the tie on Saturday after he launched a foul-mouthed rant at the umpire, GB team captain Anne Keothavong and British player Jo Konta when both complained about crowd noise.
Konta, a top 10 player, was so upset by the abuse, her match against Sorana Cirstea was temporarily suspended.
“This is unacceptable behavior by a Fed Cup captain,” ITF President David Haggerty said in a statement over the weekend.
“We expected a patriotic crowd for the Romanian team but we don’t expect abusive language to be used,” Keothavong told reporters.
“What he said directed to both Johanna and myself is … language that is not appropriate for anyone to speak to any other human.”
On Sunday, Nastase entered the VIP lounge of the Fed Cup venue before being escorted out for a second time, according to the Press Association.
Later on Sunday, the ITF said its internal adjudication panel had issued Nastase with “a provisional suspension under the Fed Cup regulations for a breach of the Fed Cup Welfare Policy.”
It added: “Under the terms of the provisional suspension, Nastase may not participate in the Fed Cup in any capacity with immediate effect and shall be denied access to, and accreditation for, any ITF event including Fed Cup.”
The ITF said it wouldn’t make any further comment while the investigation was ongoing.
The suspension means Nastase won’t be able to visit any of the four tennis majors as well as Davis Cup and Fed Cup ties. A former French Open champion, he has been a regular visitor to Roland Garros and Wimbledon in previous years.
George Cosac, president of the Romanian Tennis Federation, wasn’t immediately available for comment when contacted by CNN on Monday.
In an interview with British newspaper The Daily Mirror published Sunday, Nastase refused to apologize to the British team.
He said: “I don’t regret it and they can send me to prison if they want — I don’t care.”
‘Chocolate with milk?’
On Friday, Nastase shocked onlookers when he openly speculated about the skin color of Serena Williams’ unborn child while Romanian No. 1 Simona Halep was answering a question about the 23-time grand slam winner and world No. 1.
“Let’s see what color it has,” Romanian and British reporters quoted Nastase as saying. “Chocolate with milk?”
Williams, who is engaged to Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, announced her pregnancy last week. Ohanian is white.
The American addressed the controversy via Instagram, voicing her “disappointment” with Nastase’s comments.
“It disappoints me to know we live in a society in which people like Ilie Nastase can make such racist comments towards myself and unborn child, and sexist comments against my peers,” the post says.
“I have said it once and I’ll say it again, this world has come so far but yet we have so much further to go. Yes, we have broken down so many barriers — however there are a plethora more to go.
“This or anything else will not stop me from pouring love, light and positivity into everything that I do. I will continue to take a lead and stand up for what’s right.”
Another awkward moment came after the Romanian coach’s comments about Williams’ unborn child, when he put his arm around Keothavong when both captains posed for pictures after the draw presentation, asking her for her hotel room number. Keothavong is pregnant with her second child.
Although Konta ended up winning her match against Cirstea on Saturday upon resumption, Britain eventually lost the tie 3-2.
Nastase, a winner of the 1972 US Open and the 1973 French Open, was also a controversial figure during his playing days.
“No player in history has been more gifted or mystifying than the ‘Bucharest Buffoon,’ Ilie Nastase, noted both for his sorcery with the racket and his bizarre, even objectionable behavior,” the late American tennis writer and broadcaster Bud Collins wrote on the website of the ATP World Tour.
“He was an entertainer second to none, amusing spectators with his antics and mimicry, also infuriating them with gaucheries and walkouts.”