Serena Williams releases strong statement condemning 'racist comments towards myself and unborn child'
Serena Williams has launched a stinging attack on Ilie Nastase, accusing the Romanian of racially abusing her and her unborn baby and hurling sexist abuse at her fellow female tennis players.
The American has responded publicly for the first time to the controversy which has erupted over the Romania Fed Cup team captain's astonishing behaviour at his side's match with Great Britain last weekend.
Nastase was overheard at Friday's press conference saying about Williams' unborn baby, "Let's see what colour it has. Chocolate with milk?''
He had already asked British team captain Anne Keothavong for her room number, while, when play got under way in Constanta on Saturday, Nastase was heard to call Keothavong and British number one Johanna Konta ''f****** bitches'' in a rant which has led to his provisional suspension by the International Tennis Federation.
Writing on Instagram, Williams said: "I disappoints me to know we live in a society which people like Ilie Nastase can make such racist comments towards myself and unborn child, and sexist comments against my peers."
Williams, who returned to the world number one spot on Monday, despite not having played since cruising to the Australian Open title nearly three months ago, announced last week that she was expecting a baby in the autumn.
She added in her post: "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.
"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.
"I humbly thank the ITF for any consideration given to all the facts in this case. They will have my full support."
Nastase has remained unrepentant about his conduct, despite the All England Club threatening a Royal Box ban and fellow Romanian sports hero Nadia Comaneci branding his comments ''ugly''.
Romanian website ProSport quoted the 70-year-old on Monday evening responding to a question from a local journalist about whether he contacted any British team members in the aftermath of his outburst.
It quoted Nastase answering: ''No, I did not try (to contact them). Well, what do I do with them? One (Keothavong) is pregnant with her second child and the other (Konta) is busy. I have nothing to do with them.''
The All England Club is now set to block the two-time finalist's customary invitation to the Royal Box, saying in a statement that a "range of factors" would be taken into account, "including any suspensions".
Nastase was expelled midway through the World Group II play-off match after swearing at officials as well as the British pair. He also directed an aggressive rant at a Press Association journalist.
Afterwards, Konta's opponent Sorana Cirstea instead accused the Briton of ''exaggerating'' the incident by briefly walking off the court.
Despite his outburst, Nastase has received broad support in his homeland, although his long-time friend, gymnastics great Nadia Comaneci, said his latest comments had gone too far.
Comaneci, the first gymnast to score a perfect 10 in competition at the 1976 Olympics, said: ''Ilie has been my friend for many years, but I cannot condone or defend his recent ugly and very offensive remarks.
''Of course Ilie is responsible for what comes out of his mouth, and I think it is important in sport that you keep the respect and good behaviour.
''I am a great supporter of women in sport and I would never condone any kind of sexist comments of this kind, whether they are from Ilie Nastase or anyone else.''
She is the first significant public figure in Romania to openly question Nastase's outburst.
Despite awaiting punishment by the ITF, Nastase has remained defiant about his expulsion and insisted he does not care what punishment he is given.
He told the Daily Mirror: ''I don't regret it and they can send me to prison if they want - I don't care.
'''I don't need this b*******. I'm 70 years old. I don't even get paid for being team captain. I don't give a s*** if they fine me or don't let me sit in the captain's chair.''
Meanwhile, Keothavong appeared to question whether Nastase should ever have been appointed as Fed Cup captain given his notoriously volatile temperament.
Nastase frequently courted controversy in his playing days and also served a brief ban during his previous role as Romanian Davis Cup captain.
Keothavong told Sky Sports News: ''Clearly his behaviour on court over the weekend and leading up to this tie was inappropriate and in hindsight maybe he shouldn't have been put in the position that he was.
''You walk out onto court as a tennis player expecting to be in a safe environment and expecting to be playing against a partisan crowd - that's understandable - but you don't expect to be verbally abused when you're out there just trying to do your job.''