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Nastase takes swipe at Wimbledon chiefs after invite blocked


By Tom Allnutt

Ilie Nastase has blasted the All-England Club for announcing it will block his customary invitation to the Royal Box at Wimbledon this year following his behaviour at Romania's Fed Cup tie against Great Britain last month.

Romania team captain Nastase, 70, was ejected from the match in Constanta following a foul-mouthed tirade directed at his British counterpart Anne Keothavong and British number one Johanna Konta.

It was one of a series of incidents for which he is now awaiting sanction by the International Tennis Federation.

All-England Club chairman Philip Brook condemned Nastase's actions at the Wimbledon spring press conference yesterday, adding: "He (Nastase) is not going to receive an invitation this year."

Nastase did not take long to respond, accusing the All-England Club of being "small-minded" and of treating Romanians like "morons".

Nastase also accused Wimbledon officials of having short memories after he was one of only four seeded men's players to defy a boycott of the Championships by players' body the ATP in 1973.

Nastase said: "Look at it however you want - revenge maybe? I don't care.

"In 1973, when everyone else refused to play at Wimbledon but I did - does that not count for something? Do they not think about that?

"But if they are going to be so small-minded about it, there's nothing I can do. What does Wimbledon have to do with what I said about Serena and at the match in Romania?

"If I did something stupid at Wimbledon then I'd understand if I were then suspended. But in this case I don't get it.

"If they consider it normal to deny someone - a 71-year-old (sic) - the chance to watch tennis matches then that's their problem. It must mean we Romanians are morons... otherwise I don't understand it."

Meanwhile, Maria Sharapova will not discover if she is to be awarded a Wimbledon wildcard until after a meeting on June 20, according to Brook.

The club's sub-committee, which will be chaired by former British number one Tim Henman, will then meet and make a decision on Sharapova (below), as long as the Russian does not qualify by ranking and submits a wildcard application.

Sharapova returned from a 15-month suspension last month following a positive test for meldonium and is due to play two more events before the May 22 cut-off date for direct entry into the Wimbledon main draw.

She is currently ranked 262nd in the world and could conceivably qualify by right if she does well at the clay-court events in Madrid and Rome.

But if the 30-year-old fails to accumulate the required points, Wimbledon will have to choose whether to grant Sharapova a free pass.

"We have a long-standing, tried and tested process," Brook said.

"That process is that in the week before qualifying we have a meeting of our Tennis Sub Committee. We discuss all the wildcard applications at that point in time. This year is no different."

A number of players, including Andy Murray, have expressed the view that Sharapova should not be given any special privileges after returning from a doping ban.

Wimbledon's prize money has also been boosted. Competitors will receive £31.6million, a 12.5 per cent increase from last year.

The singles champions will each pocket £2.2million, which represents a 10 per cent rise, while first-round losers will see a jump from £30,000 to £35,000.

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