Former British number one Tim Henman blasted tennis great Ilie Nastase today, saying his racial slur against Serena Williams was “indefensible”.
The 70-year-old Romanian Fed Cup captain has been suspended by the International Tennis Federation over his controversial comments about Williams’ unborn baby, as well as abusive behaviour during a tie between Romania and Britain.
“I think it’s indefensible really... but there’s an investigation going on and I guess we’ll just have to see what happens there,” said the former world number four.
Nastase was overheard by a journalist on Friday commenting on Williams’ unborn child — who will be of mixed race as her fiance is white — saying: “Let’s see what colour it has. Chocolate with milk?”
A day later the former world number one and two-time Grand Slam winner found himself in hot water once again after swearing at the umpire, British captain Anne Keothavong and British number one player Johanna Konta during a Fed Cup match — calling the latter two “f*cking b*tches”.
He also reportedly propositioned Keothavong — who is married and pregnant.
Speaking at an event to launch grassroots tennis programme “The Road to Wimbledon” on a fittingly wet day in Hong Kong, Henman told AFP it had been a “pretty unfortunate episode for the Fed Cup”.
“It’s not something that you like to see going on in tennis. It’s got no place in society.”
Henman also said it was “going to be hard” for fellow Briton Andy Murray to keep his world number one status, with the likely return of Roger Federer at next month’s Roland Garros after a break of nearly two months from the sport.
“He’s had such an incredible end to last year and I think he’s probably suffering a little from that, obviously with the shingles and I think his body didn’t really have enough time to recover,” Henman said.
“He’s number one in the rankings now but how long he can hold onto that? We’ll have to wait and see.”
Describing Nadal as “the best clay court player in history”, he said: “I’d go with Rafael (to win).”
“In recent years he hasn’t quite played his best but certainly the way he’s played in the early part of this year coming onto clay... totally dominating Monte Carlo and winning another Masters series. I definitely think he’s the favourite.”
Henman was also full of praise for Federer, who won the Australian Open in January aged 35, saying: “I don’t know who’s writing his scripts but they’re certainly good ones.”
“It’s an incredible story for both guys (Federer and Nadal). It’s a little bit of a flashback from four or five years ago when they were the two dominant players and I think it’s so exciting for the game.”
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