Tennis legend and former Romanian Fed Cup captain Ilie Nastase appealed the sanctions heaped on him by the International Tennis Federation in the wake of last April’s behaviour during a tie against Great Britain to an independent tribunal.
And he ended up with a lighter sentence, but also a lighter wallet.
The list of Nastase’s transgressions was long that weekend. It included a racially insensitive comment about Serena Williams’s (then unborn) baby. Not stopping there, Nastase also made inappropriate, sexually suggestive comments to Great Britain Fed Cup captain Anne Keothavong.
Added to that, the 71-year-old also made abusive and threatening comments to a British journalist. And then, there was the inappropriate behaviour on court during the actual matches. The arbitrator considered those the most serious.
All of his targets (including the journalist) were women with the exception of tie supervisor Andreas Egli.
The original suspension handed down by the ITF banned Nastase from “acting in an official capacity” at any ITF-related events for three years, through Dec. 31, 2020. Nastase also was denied access or accreditation to any ITF events through Dec. 31, 2018. He also was assessed a $10,000 fine.
After hearing the case, an independent tribunal called Sport Resolutions fattened the fine by another $10,000. But it reduced the length of the suspensions by eight months each.
Now, those dates are April 23, 2020, and April 23, 2018.
Timely decision during Fed Cup week
The timing of the release of the decision on an appeal filed last Aug. 11 is … interesting.
This week, the Romanian Fed Cup team is hosting Canada in its World Group II first-round tie. The tie, which is taking place Cluj-Napoca, Romania is the Fed Cup team’s first tie since that dramatic weekend last April.
As a result, all of the participants, mainly the Romanian players, will have to react to Wednesday’s decision. It’s a week when they should be focusing on winning and advancing to a World Group I playoff tie.
The hearing took place in London on Dec. 13, with Nastase accompanied by four lawyers (three of them women).
He had two witnesses, one of them his lifelong friend Ion Tiriac. For the ITF, Andreas Egli, the ITF supervisor for the tie, also was heard.
Denials and “mitigating circumstances”
If you read the complete decision, the language Nastase used towards Egli, and the implied threat that he wouldn’t get out of the country, are pretty shocking.
And, as outlined in that decision, Nastase continued to deny he said certain things. Or, he claimed he said them in a different language than he did. And then when that was challenged, the Romanian said he couldn’t remember what he said.
It sounds like it was quite a hearing.
The suspension did not prevent Nastase from attending any ATP, WTA or even Grand Slam events, which don’t fall under the ITF’s jurisdiction. And while some annual invitations were rescinded, he did attend his great friend Tiriac’s tournament in Madrid.
Nastase even was involved in the trophy ceremony when fellow Romanian Simona Halep won the title last May. Which was awkward, although seemingly not for his countrywoman. He also showed up at the ATP Tour event in Bastad, Sweden.
He’s really, really sorry
In his concluding remarks to the panel, Nastase expressed “what the Tribunal considered to be genuine remorse for his conduct and said in substance that leaving his beloved sport on such a note would be very difficult personally and would constitute a black mark on his career that he wishes were not there.”
The Tribunal believed the words were genuine and sincere. But it, but could not “excuse behaviour that is not acceptable according to the applicable standards and especially unworthy of someone who has been the number one tennis player in the world, among other accomplishments.”
Tiriac testified that Nastase “is not a racist person, as evidenced by his actions over his long career.”
It’s hard to fathom that Nastase would make an appearance in Cluj-Napoca this weekend. But you never know.
Florin Segarceanu is currently the Fed Cup captain.