Ilie Nastase calls Wimbledon Royal Box ban 'small minded'

Telegraph Sport
Ilie Nastase in the Wimbledon Royal Box back in 2015, he won't be invited this year - AFP

Ilie Nastase has accused the All England Club of being "small-minded" after it was announced he will not be invited to the Royal Box at Wimbledon this year.

The block on Nastase being afforded his usual welcome to the exclusive seats follows the Romanian's behaviour at last month's Fed Cup tie against Great Britain.

Maria Sharapova, however, may find a return to Wimbledon easier to come by. All England Club chairman Philip Brook said on Wednesday a decision on whether to award her a wildcard will be made on June 20. 

Romania team captain Nastase, 70, was ejected from from the match in Constanta following a foul-mouthed tirade directed at his British counterpart Anne Keothavong and British number one Johanna Konta.

It was one of a series of incidents for which he is now awaiting sanction by the International Tennis Federation.

Ilie Nastase will not be in the Royal Box at Wimbledon this year. Credit: PA

Brook condemned Nastase's actions, adding: "He (Nastase) is not going to receive an invitation this year."

Nastase did not take long to respond, accusing the All England Club of being "small-minded" and of treating Romanians like "morons".

In an interview with the Romanian website ProSport, Nastase also accused Wimbledon officials of having short memories, after he was one of only four seeded men's players to defy a boycott of the Championships by players' body the ATP in 1973.

Nastase said: "Look at it however you want - revenge maybe? I don't care.

"In 1973, when everyone else refused to play at Wimbledon but I did - does that not count for something? Do they not think about that?

Nastase made a crude remark to Keothavong during the Fed Cup tie Credit: Getty Images

"But if they are going to be so small-minded about it, there's nothing I can do. What does Wimbledon have to do with what I said about Serena and at the match in Romania?

"If I did something stupid at Wimbledon then I'd understand if I were then suspended. But in this case, I don't get it.

"If they consider it normal to deny someone - a 71-year-old (sic) - the chance to watch tennis matches, then that's their problem. It must mean we Romanians are morons... otherwise I don't understand it."

Sharapova will not discover her fate until after a meeting of the All England Club's tennis sub-committee, chaired by former British No 1 Tim Henman, on June 20.

The Russian returned from a 15-month suspension last month following a positive test for meldonium and is due to play two more events before the May 22 cut-off date for direct entry into the Wimbledon main draw.

Sharapova could yet gain an automatic spot into the main draw at Wimbledon Credit: AP

She is currently ranked 262nd in the world and could conceivably qualify by right if she does well at the clay-court events in Madrid and Rome.

But if the 30-year-old fails to accumulate the required points, Wimbledon will have to choose whether to grant Sharapova a free pass.

"We have a long-standing, tried and tested process," Brook said.

"That process is that in the week before qualifying we have a meeting of our tennis sub-committee. We discuss all the wildcard applications at that point in time. This year is no different.

"We will wait and see whether Maria applies for a wildcard and, if so, we will consider the case alongside everyone else's."

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