Tennis legend Ilie Nastase has apologised for the racist comments he made about Serena Williams and for a foul-mouthed and abusive Fed Cup tirade that saw him suspended by the International Tennis Federation (IFT).
Nastase mades amends for ill-chosen words
"My words during the Fed Cup have rightfully caused controversy and upset the audience, the press and, most painfully for me, the tennis world", the former world No.1 and two-time Grand Slam winner, 70, said on Facebook.
He said that his comments made last Friday about the pregnant Williams, in which he was overheard by a journalist talking about her baby being 'chocolate with milk', were a 'spontaneous' knee-jerk reaction to hearing that she was expecting a child.
“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 said.
The day after the Williams comments, Nastase was kicked out of a Fed Cup tie between Romania and Great Britain after swearing at the umpire, at Britain's pregnant captain Anne Keothavong and at their number one player Johanna Konta.
Nastase, renowned during his golden era for his pranks, hot-headed unpredictability and being a playboy, ignored the ban on Sunday and turned up at the venue on the Black Sea coast. He was seen by reporters walking into the VIP lounge.
Nastase ignores ITF venue ban
The ITF later confirmed Nastase was not allowed to be on site in any capacity and the Romanian Tennis Federation president subsequently said he had left. “I was 5 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”, Nastase said in a new statement. “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”.
Nastase added that what happened had been exaggerated. “Joanna Konta had no right to speak to the chairman, the team captain is the only one who can do this. I asked the chairman for some explanations in a civilised manner, but he sent me to the stand. In the stand, they withdrew my status as Capitan 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?”