Serena Williams has accused Romanian tennis great Ilie Nastase of racially abusing her unborn child. The pregnant American wasn’t the only victim of Nastase’s comments, with the British Fed Cup team also targeted.Williams, the world number 1 and winner of 23 grand slam titles, responded on Monday to comments Nastase made at a press conference last week.
“Let’s see what color it has. Chocolate with milk?” the Romanian said.
“It disappoints me to know we live in a society where people like Ilie Nastase can make such racist comments towards myself and (my) unborn child,” Williams, 35, wrote on Instagram. Williams is black. Her fiance, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, is white.
“I have said it once and I’ll say it again, this world has come so far but yet we have so much further to go. Yes, we have broken down so many barriers – however there are a plethora more to go.
“This or anything else will not stop me from pouring love, light and positivity into everything that I do. I will continue to take a lead and stand up for what’s right.”
Williams, who won this year’s Australian Open while pregnant, also referred to Nastase’s “sexist comments against my peers” – a reference to his verbal abuse directed at British player, Johanna Konta, British captain Anne Keothavong and the chair umpire during Fed Cup matches over the weekend.
Nastase, Romania’s Fed Cup coach, reportedly called the British players “f***ing bitches” amid a string of insults during the Romania vs Britain clash that forced a suspension of play and reduced Konta to tears.
“I think nobody should have to put up with – in life or in any way – to feel verbally threatened and subjected to that sort of abuse,” the British player said over the weekend. “I’ve never had anything like that before, I’ve never been in an environment like that before.”
Nastase has a history of scuffles with British tennis players, having attacked David Lloyd with a racket in a Davis Cup tie in 1978. He was disqualified four times when he was playing in the mid 70s and once called a line judge at Wimbledon “a member of the SS.”
While the 70-year-old, who was nicknamed Nasty in his playing days after a string of on-court outbursts, accepted he lost his temper over the weekend, he also called his punishment “crazy” and rejected the suggestion that his comments towards Williams’ unborn child had been racist.
“I want to know what word I used is racist?” he said Monday in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.
The former French and US Open champion was backed by George Cosac, the chairman of the Romanian Tennis Federation, who has suggested Nastase was picked on by British officials during the match.
His latest comments have also drawn widespread condemnation, including from his fellow Romanian sporting great Nadia Comaneci: “Ilie has been my friend for many years, but I can not condone or defend his recent ugly and very offensive remarks,” the 55-year-old five-time Olympic gold medallist wrote on Twitter.