Bucharest - Former Romanian tennis champion Ilie Nastase - at one time one of the highest-earning players in Europe - has announced he will run for a seat in parliament.

The player once seen as the “bad boy” of tennis, with a talent for drama as well as the racquet, said Wednesday he will stand in the Bucharest by-election for a seat in the Romanian Senate.

Nastase, who is now 67, will be a candidate for the Conservative Party, a small group that is part of the left-leaning governing coalition.

The party was founded by Dan Voiculescu, a former collaborator of the Communist Political Police, the Securitate.

“Today, I want to get involved (in politics) to help sports in Romania,” he told the Agerpres news agency. “I want to fight for the adoption of a law on sponsorship, without which sport in this country is going to die.”

Nastase, who led his country to the Davis Cup final on three occasions, retired from competition in 1984 after a glittering career.

He won the US Open at Forest Hills in 1972 and in 1976 was the first European to exceed $1 million (720 000 euros) in career prize money.

The Association of Tennis Professionals says he is a player known “both for his sorcery with the racket and his bizarre... behaviour.”

Nastase himself, who was nicknamed the “Bucharest buffoon” for his on-court antics, once admitted he was “a little crazy”.

This is not his first attempt to stand for political office - he ran, unsuccessfully, for the mayor of Bucharest in 1996.

No stranger to controversy, in 2010 he had to pay a 140 euros ($190) fine for making discriminatory remarks about the Roma and Hungarian minorities in Romania.

The by-election will be held on May 25.