Ilie Nastase has apologised for comments he made about Serena Williams’ unborn child, but says his outburst during Romania’s Fed Cup win over Great Britain was “exaggerated”.
Williams accused Nastase of racism after he was overheard asking if the child would be “chocolate with milk?”.
Nastase, 70, a former world number one, said his reaction was “spontaneous”.
But the Romania captain also criticised GB’s Johanna Konta, who was left in tears after his outburst on Saturday.
Nastase, a two-time Grand Slam champion, made the remarks about the American world number one’s unborn child before the Fed Cup tie.
The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has launched an investigation.
Apologising for his comments about Williams, he added: “I really respect Serena. She is one of the greatest tennis players of all time and I know how much work is behind these results.
“At that press conference, I was asked about Serena’s pregnancy. That was the first time I had heard about her pregnancy, and my reaction was spontaneous.”
“I am fully aware that nothing can truly excuse my statements – not the tension of a high-stakes game, not my traditionally irreverent attitude, not the unfortunate escalation of the situation.
“Unfortunately, now, in my 70s, I have somehow managed to do something I have never wanted or even imagined: to feel tennis moving further away from me.”
‘The past few days have been difficult for me’
In Konta’s Fed Cup match against Sorana Cirstea on Saturday, Nastase was sent off after swearing at the umpire and abusing Konta and her captain Anne Keothavong.
He was banned from the tie and later handed a provisional suspension by the ITF.
“What happened in Constanta has been exaggerated by all,” he said.
He added that he had spoken to the umpire in a “civilized manner” and did not understand why the match was suspended, adding that Konta should not have spoken to the umpire.
“The past few days have been difficult for me,” he continued.
“My words during the Fed Cup have rightfully caused controversy and upset the audience, the press and, most painfully for me, the tennis world.
“I will not attempt to defend my words, but I can assure you they only stemmed from my genuine desire to defend the Romanian team and Romanian tennis.”