Following former world number one and Grand Slam champion Ilie Nastase’s derogatory remark about Serena Williams’ unborn child, the latter has given her backing to a full investigation over the “racist” comments.
The 70-year-old Nastase was heard telling one of his other team members during Friday’s Fed Cup draw in Constanta while Romanian player Simona Halep was answering a question in English about Williams’ pregnancy: “Let’s see what colour it has. Chocolate with milk?”
A spokesman for the International Tennis Federation (ITF) subsequently told reporters it is aware of the comments and has begun an immediate investigation.
“The ITF does not tolerate discriminatory and offensive language and behaviour of any kind,” the statement reads.
“We are aware of alleged comments made by Romanian captain Ilie Nastase and have begun an immediate investigation so that we have the full facts of the situation before taking further and appropriate action.”
But Serena Williams, in a statement, said: “It disappoints me to know we live in a society where people like Ilie Nastase can make such racist comments.”
Williams, 35, who won her record-breaking Grand Slam at the January Australian Open while eight weeks pregnant, is due to give birth to her first child later in the year.
“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,” Williams added. “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.”
Williams recently announced her engagement to Alexis Ohanian, Reddit’s co-founder, and posted a photograph of her and her baby bump in a yellow swimsuit last Thursday with “20 weeks” caption on Snapchat.
The 23-time Grand Slam champion added, “I humbly thank the ITF for any consideration given to all the facts in this case. They will have my full support.”
And in a separate statement, Serena thanked her unborn child as she regained the world number one ranking on Monday.
“You gave me the strength I didn’t know I had. You taught me the true meaning of serenity and peace. I can’t wait to meet you.”
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