PRAGUE – Ilie Nastase is taking on a new role as a diplomat for the Czech Republic.
The Romanian tennis great has been banned by the International Tennis Federation for two years because of his foul-mouthed comments and bad behavior as Romania’s Fed Cup captain.
But after a meeting on Friday, Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek said Nastase agreed to become the Czech Republic’s new honorary consul in Romania. He will be based in the Black Sea port of Constanta.
“It’s a great honor,” Nastase said. “My country didn’t give me this chance but you gave me this chance and I appreciate it.”
Nastase will have time to focus on his new job. In addition to the ITF ban, the 1973 French Open champion will not be able to work in an official tennis capacity for a further two years, until 2021.
Nastase was provisionally suspended in April after he speculated about the skin color of the baby that Serena Williams was expecting, and for outbursts during the Fed Cup matches against Britain where he hurled abuse at opposing player Johanna Konta. He also made advances of a sexual nature toward Britain captain Anne Keothavong.
Nastase, a former top-ranked player, was barred from the French Open and was not invited to the Royal Box at Wimbledon, where he was a two-time finalist.
Despite his reputation, Zaoralek, who said he is a tennis fan, insisted Nastase was the right choice.
“I trust Mr. Nastase,” Zaoralek said. “(In diplomacy) we have to weigh our words, and I think Mr. Nastase is fully aware of that.
“I am sure that his transfer from sports to diplomacy will be successful because I can see him as person who realizes the responsibility he has in the new function.”
Nastase was expected to attend the opening day of the new Laver Cup tennis tournament in Prague, which starts Friday. His ban applies only for ITF events.