Ion Tiriac Defends Nastase, Speaks Out Against Wild Cards For Sharapova
The owner of the Madrid Open, Ion Tiriac, has publicly defended Illie Nastase following his provisional suspension by the International Tennis Federation.
Nastase is currently prohibited for attending ITF events following a series of controversies during a recent Fed Cup tie. The former world No.1 was accused of racism after he was heard speculating that Serena Williams’ baby would be born ‘chocolate with milk.’ Less than 24 hours later, he engaged in a heated confrontation with British captain Anne Keothavong and Johanna Konta. Nastase called the pair ‘F***ing B***es’ and was eventually removed from the tie. As a result of his behaviour, he was suspended from the tie, but still turned up for a meal with friends later on.
The controversy has lead to numerous condemnations and the 70-year-old hasn’t been invited to the Wimbledon Championships. Still, Nastase continues to have the strong backing of businessman and former doubles partner Tiriac. Tiriac was recently criticised by the head of the WTA for including Nastase in the trophy ceremony for the women’s final of the Madrid Open, which was won by Simona Halep.
“Nastase, good or bad, needs a monument to him everywhere, including in England, because he is the guy who took tennis out of the country club and to the people,” Tiriac told The Daily Mail. “He is not allowed to go to Wimbledon? OK, so they don’t invite him in the Royal Box, but he made Wimbledon funny, playing with the umbrella.”
The defiant stance of Romania’s richest man comes as no surprise. Paired with Nastase, the two reached two French Open doubles finals, winning the title in 1970. Tiriac has also argued that his countryman is not racist. He compared Nastase’s comments to that of Richard Williams in 1997. Williams once called Romanian player Irina Spirlea a “big, white turkey”during a clash involving his daughter Venus at the US Open.
“’I am sorry about Serena, she is a great girl from a great family,” he said. ‘I remember after that (New York incident) Ilie said to the father of Spirlea, “look, the guy is a parent”, he defended Venus and her father Richard over that, so how can Serena say he is a racist?”
There has been no final decision from the ITF over Nastase. According to the Daily Mail, he has three lawyers working on the case and French Davis Cup captain Yannick Noah has sent a letter of support.
Opponent of Sharapova’s wild card’s
In the wake of Maria Sharapova’s return to the sport, Tiriac has spoken out against her receiving wild cards. The former world No.1 was recently awarded a pass into the Madrid Open, which is owned by the Romanian.
“I am the (Madrid) owner, not the tournament director, I don’t manage it. Although I have some sympathy for her I told her I would not give her one, but I couldn’t make the decision.” He said.
“I give Sharapova some benefit of the doubt but she is not stupid, don’t give me that s***.”
Sharapova will not be participating in the French Open after the organisers refused to give her a wild card. The head of French Tennis said the decision was made ‘to protect the sport.’ Critics have however accused the organisers of double standards. French player Constant Lestienne, who was suspended last year from betting offences, has received a pass into the tournament.