The former tennis star Ilie Nastase, already under investigation for making a racist jibe about the colour of Serena Williams’s unborn baby, provoked further uproar on Saturday after calling Great Britain captain Anne Keothavong and player Johanna Konta “fucking bitches”.
The new insult from Nastase led to him being thrown off the court, and Great Britain’s Fed Cup play-off against Romania was suspended, with Konta visibly traumatised and in tears. She later resumed and won the match.
The latest controversy to engulf the 70-year-old former world No 1 erupted after he became embroiled in a row about noise from the crowd.
Nastase, who is Romania’s Fed Cup captain, now faces a lengthy ban from tennis. He was heard to say to the umpire: “What’s your fucking problem?” before hurling abuse at the British pair.
He was sent from the grounds by the umpire for “serious misconduct” as Romanian No 1 Simona Halep appealed for the crowd to calm.
Hours earlier, Nastase had launched into yet another astonishing rant, this time directing his invective at a British female journalist, calling her “stupid” for reporting his apparently racist comment about Williams’s pregnancy. On Friday, Nastase was heard to say: “Let’s see what colour it has. Chocolate with milk?”
Shortly before play started, Nastase stormed into the press centre at the Tenis Club IDU in the Romanian city of Constanta to seek out the British media. At the time, only the Press Association Sport tennis correspondent Eleanor Crooks was present, and Nastase asked Crooks: “Why did you write that? You’re stupid, you’re stupid.”
After the outburst, Press Association Sport sent details of Nastase’s comments to the International Tennis Federation (ITF), which may choose to take further action over Nastase’s latest transgression. But Nastase had not finished, later targeting Crooks again to the point that he was restrained by at least six security guards. He also called her “ugly” off camera.
According to Crooks, Nastase was evidently frustrated that journalists had reported his comments about Williams’s unborn baby but did not dispute the accuracy of the reporting. Crooks said: “He repeatedly called me stupid, asked me why what he said was racist. I explained we simply reported what he said and that it was unnecessary to make such a comment about colour. He said the English were out to get him and called me stupid a few more times.
“It is certainly not the behaviour you would expect of someone in his position and wholly unnecessary, especially given he did not dispute the accuracy of what was reported.”
The ITF is also examining Nastase’s behaviour towards Keothavong when he asked for her room number during the official dinner on Thursday. He then repeated the request when the captains posed together for photographs following Friday’s draw, while putting his arm tightly around the shoulder of Keothavong, who is married and 18 weeks pregnant.
On Wednesday Williams announced that she is expecting her first child with fiancé, Alexis Ohanian, the co-founder of the Reddit website, who is white. Nastase himself was not asked about Williams on Friday but made the comment, in Romanian and clearly audible, to the other players while Halep was answering a question about Williams, the 23-time grand slam singles champion.
Halep, the world No 5, who had asked for Nastase to be made captain, later seemed to play down the offending comments, saying: “He’s joking all the time, and I’m 100% that that was a joke.
“I don’t believe that was something bad coming from him but I think he was not respectful a little bit with his comment [about Williams’s unborn baby]. But we cannot get upset with Ilie, he’s like that and he’s the same with us.”