BUCHAREST • Pregnant star Serena Williams and gymnastics great Nadia Comaneci blasted tennis legend Ilie Nastase for making "racist", "sexist" and "offensive" comments during the Fed Cup tie between Romania and Britain last weekend.
Romanian Fed Cup captain Nastase has been suspended by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) over his foul-mouthed tirade and abusive behaviour during the tie, from which he was ejected.
Last Friday, he also made a controversial racial slur over Williams' unborn baby while reportedly propositioning the married and pregnant British captain Anne Keothavong.
"It disappoints me to know we live in a society where people like Ilie Nastase can make such racist comments towards myself and unborn child, and sexist comments against my peers," said the 23-time Grand Slam singles winner Williams on her Instagram account.
"I am not afraid unlike you. You see, I am no coward. 'Does my sassiness upset you? Why are you beset with gloom? You may shoot me with your words... you may try to kill me with your hatefulness, but still like air, I rise.'"
This is not the first time Williams has been stung by racism as player. The world No. 1 boycotted the Indian Wells tournament for 14 years after she, her sister Venus and their family claimed they were victims of racial taunts while Serena played in the 2001 final.
"I AM NO COWARD"
Does my sassiness upset you? Why are you beset with gloom? You may shoot me with your words... you may try to kill me with your hatefulness, but still like air, I rise.
SERENA WILLIAMS, world No.1 tennis player, channelling Maya Angelou in responding to Ilie Nastase's reported comments on her unborn child.
"I humbly thank the ITF for any consideration given to all the facts in this case. They will have my full support," continued the 35-year-old.
Nastase was overheard by a journalist commenting on Williams' unborn child - who will be of mixed race as her fiance Alexis Ohanian is white - on Friday, saying: "Let's see what colour it has. Chocolate with milk?"
The 70-year-old former world No. 1 showed no contrition on Monday.
"I want to know what word I used is racist?" he asked The Associated Press during an exclusive interview.
On Saturday, the two-time Grand Slam winner was kicked out of the tie after swearing at the umpire, Keothavong and British No. 1 women's player Johanna Konta, calling them "f***ing bitches".
Nastase was also blasted by compatriot 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.
Nastase and Comaneci are Romania's two greatest sporting icons. Comaneci was reacting to criticism she received from earlier comments she made at the European Gymnastics Championships, held in Cluj, Romania at the weekend.
Various press reported her as having said Nastase "says things that he doesn't really mean", adding that "everybody in Romania loves Ilie because he is Ilie".
Despite being kicked out of the Fed Cup tie, Nastase blatantly ignored the ban on Sunday and walked into the VIP area at the venue in Constanta.
Eventually, he was asked to leave by the Romanian Tennis Federation president.
His bizarre behaviour did not stop there, though, as Keothavong revealed he had sent her flowers on Sunday in an attempt at peace-making.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS