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Royal Box snub for Nastase at Wimbledon

Organisers ramp up prize money for singles winners

Gulf News

London: Ilie Nastase will be barred from Wimbledon’s Royal Box this year following the former world number one’s behaviour at last month’s Fed Cup tie against Great Britain.

Romania team captain Nastase was ejected from his team’s match in Constanta after a series of foul-mouthed rants.

The 70-year-old was overheard making an apparently racist comment about Serena Williams’ unborn baby when he said: “Let’s see what colour it has. Chocolate with milk?’’

Nastase also asked British captain Anne Keothavong for her hotel room number, verbally abused umpire Jaume Campistol and referee Andreas Egli before swearing at Keothavong and the British player Johanna Konta as he was sent from the court.

The two-time Grand Slam champion was escorted from the venue by security staff and banned for the rest of the tie.

He defied that by briefly returning the following day, however, and had pointedly refused to apologise in the immediate aftermath, saying he had no regrets.

Nastase, who twice finished as runner-up at Wimbledon in the 1970s, is awaiting sanction by the International Tennis Federation after being hit with a provisional suspension.

Although the eccentric Nastase has been a regular alongside celebrities and sporting greats in the prestigious Royal Box in previous years, the All England Club indicated last week that it wouldn’t invite him this year and their chairman Philip Brook has now made that official.

“What he did, we have to say his actions were not very good. We condemn them,” Brook told reporters at Wimbledon on Wednesday.

“In terms of an invitation to the Royal Box he is not going to receive one. I can confirm that.”

Although the ITF ban doesn’t cover Grand Slams, Wimbledon officials said he could be “turned away” if he tried to buy a ticket while still under investigation.

“At the moment he is under a temporary suspension by the ITF. We would support that,” All England Club chief executive Richard Lewis said.

“He is under investigation. We will see what their conclusions are. We will wait for the outcome.”

Wimbledon singles champions will cash cheques for 2.2 million pounds (Dh10.4 million; $2.8 million) this year, the All England Club said on Wednesday. Andy Murray and Serena Williams earned 2 million pounds for taking home the silverware in the men’s and women’s events at the grasscourt Grand Slam last year.

That figure has now been surpassed by a 10 per cent hike as Wimbledon prepares for this year’s tournament, which gets under way on July 3 in its latest start date since 1895.

In the last six years, the cash pot for the Wimbledon winners has doubled from 1.1 million pounds.

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