Serena Williams has condemned the comments made during a recent Fed Cup tie by Romania’s Ilie Nastase as “racist.” Nastase was heard making the comment in Romanian to his team ahead of their victory over Great Britain. Nastase was subsequently banned from the tie for a separate incident after he shouted abuse at members of the British team during a match.
The controversial former world No. 1 turned away from an interview in English on Friday to quip to his Fed Cup team “let’s see what colour it has. Chocolate with milk?” While the Romanian media attempted to laugh it off, tennis’s governing body, the International Tennis Federation (ITF), announced it had begun an immediate investigation.
In response, Serena Williams released a statement expressing her feelings about Nastase’s comments.
“It disappoints me to know we live in a society where people like Ilie Nastase can make such racist comments.”
“Nasty” Nastase: A Weekend Of Controversy
While Nastase’s comments about Serena Williams were the stand-out controversy of the weekend Fed Cup tie between Romania and Great Britain, they were far from his only moment of controversy.
At the same event on Friday in which he made his the comments about Williams, he was also heard twice suggesting that the Great Britain captain Anne Keothavang give him her room number. As the former Romanian sex symbol of the 1970s claims “to have slept with between 800 and 2,500 women,” such behavior should not come as a total surprise. But neither does this make it acceptable behavior.
Especially given that his opposite number Keothavang is currently expecting her second child, these comments were at best out-of-place. The two individuals were at the event as captains of their respective national tennis teams, and Nastase’s comments did little to build a rapport of respect and equality ahead of the tie.
But, as it turned out, his weekend’s controversy had barely begun.
During the tie’s second match between Romania’s Sorana Cirstea and Great Britain’s Johanna Konta, Nastase was ejected from the venue for “serious misconduct.” His tirade of abuse began against a British journalist who had reported on Mr. Nastase’s comments on Serena Williams from the previous day. He called the journalist “stupid” and later added that she was “ugly” as he was led away by security officials.
His disruptive focus then moved towards the umpire and the Great British team. Nastase called the Great British captain, Anne Keothavang, and the British player on the court, Johanna Konta, “bi***es” numerous times during a foul-mouthed outburst, before finally being ejected from the venue.
Nastase Attacks Great Britain As Well As Williams
Johanna Konta had complained of someone calling out from the crowd during the opening games and, following Nastase’s comments, Konta needed a 25-minute break in the match to recover her composure after being left visibly upset.
The world No. 7 said the following of the incident.
“It did upset me quite a lot and that was shown…It was not something anyone should experience.”
Her captain, Koethavang, said the outburst was “unacceptable” while the Lawn Tennis Association said it was “deeply shocked”.
Her opponent was less compassionate, however. Cirstea said after the match that Konta had “overreacted.” She continued to question whether Konta’s reason for suspending the match was a valid one.
“Why did we stop? Only because Johanna cried? I have never cried on the court because someone told me something. You have to toughen up…Next time I’m in trouble I will cry, maybe I can go off the court.”
Serena Williams Replies To Nastase
Following Nastase’s weekend where he lived up to his “Nasty” nickname, Serena Williams released a statement. The 35-year-old world No. 1 gave her “full support” to the ITF in their investigation of the events. She also gave her support to the Great British team, condemning Nastase’s “sexist comments against my peers.”
Williams went on to comment on society more generally, stating that “we have broken down so many barriers [but] there are a plethora more to go.” She also quoted civil rights activist and poet Maya Angelou in her statement.
“I am not afraid of you. You see, I am no coward. Does my sassiness upset you? Why are you best with gloom? You may shoot me with your words…you may try to kill me with your hatefulness, but still like the air, I rise.”
Serena Williams, who is due to give birth to her first child this autumn with fiancé Alexis Ohanian, rose back to world No. 1 ranking after winning the year’s first major in Australia. Ilie Nastase, on the other hand, is now being investigated for multiple issues from last weekend’s Fed Cup tie by the ITF and is serving a provisional ban.
And so, while Serena Williams sits atop the world, the only thing of Ilie Nastase that will rise following last weekend’s incidents will be his infamy and ‘nasty’ reputation.
[Featured Image by Scott Barbour/Getty Images]