Tennis: Ilie Nastase suspended for obscenity-laden tirade as Belarus and US reach Fed Cup final

Ilie Nastase was kicked out of the Fed Cup tie between Romania and Britain on Saturday (April 22) after swearing at the umpire, Anne Keothavong and Johanna Konta.
Ilie Nastase was kicked out of the Fed Cup tie between Romania and Britain on Saturday (April 22) after swearing at the umpire, Anne Keothavong and Johanna Konta. PHOTO: REUTERS

Paris (AFP) - Ilie Nastase was suspended on Sunday for his foul-mouthed and abusive behaviour during Romania's scandal-hit Fed Cup tie with Britain as Belarus and the United States booked their places in the final.

Nastase, 70, a former world No. 1 and two-time Grand Slam title winner, was kicked out of the tie on Saturday after swearing at the umpire, Britain's pregnant captain Anne Keothavong and their No. 1 player Johanna Konta.

On Friday, he had made a controversial racial slur over Serena Williams's unborn baby, while also reportedly propositioning the married Keothavong.

In another bizarre twist, the British captain revealed Sunday that Nastase had sent her flowers in a peace-making gesture.

An International Tennis Federation (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.

"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."

However, Nastase blatantly ignored the ban on Sunday and turned up at the venue on the Black Sea coast, walking into the VIP lounge before being asked to leave by the Romanian Tennis Federation president.

After his slur against Williams, who will give birth in September, Nastase was still raging on Saturday.

He was warned twice by the umpire for unsportsmanlike conduct as Konta took on Sorana Cirstea in the day's second rubber.

Nastase screamed at the umpire: "It's not the opera, what's your f*****g problem?"

Konta broke down in tears after the abuse - leading to the rubber being temporarily suspended - and left the court, subsequently being criticised by her opponent Cirstea for overreacting.

"With all due respect to Sorana, she was not in my shoes on that end of the court being verbally threatened," Konta, beaten by Simona Halep on Sunday, told the BBC.

"Any abuse is not alright, but when it's a couple of metres away from you, screaming at you, I think that's a different ball game."

Amid the controversy, Romania won the tie when Irina-Camelia Begu beat Heather Watson to qualify for the World Group in 2018, while Britain were relegated to the Europe/Africa Zone.

The drama in Constanta overshadowed what was meant to be the weekend's main piece of business - the semi-finals.

In Minsk, 18-year-old Aryna Sabalenka put Belarus into the final for the first time with a stunning upset of Viktorija Golubic of Switzerland.

Sabalenka, who is ranked 125 in the world, won 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 over the 54th-ranked Golubic to give Belarus an unassailable 3-1 advantage.

"I gave everything I had for this win," said Sabalenka as Belarus flourished despite the absence of former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka who won't return to the tour until July after becoming a mother for the first time.

Earlier, Aliaksandra Sasnovich put Belarus into a 2-1 lead as she upset Timea Bacsinszky 6-2, 7-6 (7-2).

Switzerland's defeat meant there was no fairy tale return to the final for Martina Hingis, 19 years after her only appearance in the championship match when her team lost to Spain.

She at least had the consolation of teaming with Belinda Bencic to beat Olga Govortsova and Vera Lapko 6-0, 6-1 in the doubles.

In November's final, Belarus will host 17-time winners, the US who knocked out defending champions the Czech Republic 3-2 in Florida.

Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Coco Vandeweghe downed Kristyna Pliskova and Katerina Siniakova 6-2, 6-3 in the crucial doubles.

Level at 1-1 overnight, Vandeweghe defeated Siniakova 6-4, 6-0 before 17-year-old Marketa Vondrousova edged Lauren Davis 6-2, 7-5 in the second reverse singles.