Simona Halep thanked much-criticised Fed Cup coach Ilie Nastase after defending her Madrid Open title on Saturday, but the 70-year-old’s role in the trophy presentation was labelled “irresponsible and unacceptable” by the WTA.
Halep, who edged out Kristina Mladenovic in a thrilling near three-hour final 7-5, 6-7(5), 6-2, was congratulated on court by Nastase as the Romanian received the trophy named after Nastase’s former doubles partner and Madrid Open owner Ion Tiriac.
Nastase has been banned from the French Open and Wimbledon after he was ejected from Romania’s Fed Cup clash with Great Britain last month for a series of foul-mouthed rants directed at British captain Anne Keothavong and number one Johanna Konta, as well as umpires and members of the press.
“He had no place on court today,” said WTA CEO Steve Simon in a statement.
“He is currently under a provisional suspension by the ITF for his prior offensive actions and we revoked his credential privileges at WTA events while the investigation is being completed.
“It was both irresponsible and unacceptable of the Madrid Open to bestow him an official role.
“The Madrid tournament is a Premier-level event and held to the highest standards of professional tennis and leadership which were not reflected today.”
However, Halep thanked the former world number one before happily posing for a picture with him courtside.
“Ilie thank you for coming, you are supporting me all match,” said Halep.
Nastase’s presence overshadowed a high quality match in which France’s Mladenovic played a huge part.
“This final was quite amazing,” said Mladenovic. “I can just be proud out there from what both of us showed.
“I think it was a great final. Great spirit, attitude, great game. I’ve got to give credit to Simona for an amazing game today.”
Simon added his frustration that the opportunity for a great advert for women’s tennis had been lost.
“It was an exciting final match and I heartily congratulate Simona and Kristina for their outstanding display of tennis.
“The only shadow cast on the day was Mr. Nastase’s invitation to participate in today’s award ceremony.”
Mladenovic had won three of the pair’s four previous meetings, including most recently meeting in Indian Wells back in March.
And it was she who made the perfect start in a topsy-turvy opening set by jumping out to a 2-0 lead.
However, Halep responded to break back in a marathon game as it took nearly half an hour for the score just to reach 2-2.
Mladenovic broke once more to lead 5-3, but couldn’t close out the set as Halep battled back to take the last four games and a one-set lead.
The second set was just as intense as after an exchange of early breaks, serve was dominant all the way to a tie-break.
An incredible drop shot from Mladenovic opened up two set points at 6-4 and she evened the match with a booming forehand down the line.
Halep had received a warning during the tie-break for kicking her raquet in the direction of a ball boy in frustration.
However, she composed herself for the start of the deciding set and was the dominant player throughout.
Mladenovic saved break points in her opening service game, but couldn’t repeat the trick when faced with two more as Halep broke for a 2-1 lead.
And Halep completely broke Mladenovic’s spirit in another epic 14-point game for a 5-2 lead before serving out for the championship to love.