Tennis History: April 22, 2017

On this day in tennis history, infamous former world No.1 tennis player, Ilie Nastase was banned from the Fed Cup after a disturbing incident at the tournament.

As the captain of the Romanian Fed Cup team, Nastase was present for their tie match against Great Britain. But, before we look at the incident that happened on April 22, let’s first look at a comment made by Nastase just a day prior. While Simona Halep was answering a question in English about Serena Williams’ pregnancy, Nastase turned to one of the other team members and made a remark in Romanian. 

This remark, in English, was, “Let’s see what color it has. Chocolate with milk?”

Additionally, Nastase had already made advances on Britain’s team captain, Anne Keothavong. Nastase put his arm around the captain and asked for her room number with several media around.

Then, early Saturday, Nastase confronted the British media for their coverage of that disgusting incident. He went into the media room to look for British journalists and found the Press Association Sport’s tennis correspondent, Eleanor Crooks. 

Nastase approached her saying, “Why did you write that? You’re stupid, you’re stupid.”

“He repeatedly called me stupid, asked me why what he said was racist,” said Crooks.

“I explained we simply reported what he said and that it was unnecessary to make such a comment about color. He said the English were out to get him and called me stupid a few more times.”

“Fortunately he was across the other side of the room from me and there were other journalists around so it was unpleasant rather than threatening.”

“But it is certainly not the behavior you would expect of someone in his position and wholly unnecessary, especially given he did not dispute the accuracy of what was reported.”

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Nevertheless, if this wasn’t enough for you to despise Nastase, during the match that night, Nastase was sent off after swearing at the umpire and abusing Konta and her captain Anne Keothavong.

In the next game, Konta had to fight back tears while dropping her serve against Sorana Cirstea to go down 1-3. Following that game, the umpire suspended play for 25 minutes. Once the match resumed, Konta cruised to an easy 6-2, 6-3 victory.

“It was not something anyone should experience,” Konta told BBC Sport.

“It did upset me quite a lot and that was shown. I am not one to cry on court. It was slightly embarrassing but it affected me more than I would have liked.”

“I know that Fed Cups can be quite emotional and can sometimes take an unexpected turn but it wasn’t something I was prepared for.”

“Obviously, it left me slightly unnerved but the best I could do was to make it as much about the tennis as possible. I felt I did that and am looking forward to that again tomorrow.”

Keothavong said she had “expected a patriotic crowd”, but did not expect “abusive language to be used”.

“It’s unacceptable. No-one deserves to be spoken to in that way,” she told BBC Sport.

“We’ve come here to play tennis. The referee made the right call to suspend the match, and during the break, I was just trying to keep Johanna calm.”

“All of the players – from both teams – handled the situation incredibly well. It’s happened, it’s done and there is a lot to play for tomorrow.”

However, Konta’s opponent, Cirstea, felt quite differently about the situation. 

“Someone crying cannot stop a match,” she told BBC Sport.

“From a tennis point of view, Johanna deserved the win – she is a better player than me – but the behavior of the British team was exaggerated.”

“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.”

“OK, at 2-1 you take our captain out, that was the right decision, but then at 3-1 I break you and now you cry. I am not saying it was fake, but it was not logical.”

“Next time I’m in trouble I will cry, maybe I can go off the court. As Romanians, we get double insulted because of our nation but it’s OK, we are tough. Tougher than British people apparently.”

Could Cirstea have felt this way because she was familiar with Nastase’s abusive mannerisms? Possibly. Still, it is hard to feel bad for her in the wake of her comments.

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.

An ITF statement read: “The ITF’s internal adjudication panel has issued Ilie Nastase with a provisional suspension under the Fed Cup regulations for a breach of the Fed Cup welfare policy at the tie in Constanta. 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.

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