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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Wimbledon Special - whatever happened to Ilie Năstase?

Far to busy to watch Wimbledon properly I am catching the odd news report in a state of puzzlement as I try to work out who all these strange tennis players are. I have of course heard of Andy Murray, Roger Federer and a few other of the participants but otherwise I am out of my depth and left thinking of the Wimbledon of my youth when Jimmy Connor, Bjorn Borg, Arthur Ashe, John McEnroe and Ilie Năstase were amongst some of the stars.

Wikipedia tells us that Ilie Năstase was the World number one male tennis player World No. 1 in 1973 according to the Association of Tennis Professionals computer rankings, which placed him first from 23 August 1973 to 2 June 1974. He won the US Open in 1972 and the French Open in 1973 and was the singles runner up in Wimbledon in 1972 and 1976.

In men's doubles, he won Wimbledon in 1973 (with Jimmy Connors), the French Open in 1970 (with Ion Ţiriac), and the U.S. Open in 1975 (with Jimmy Connors). Năstase won the Masters tournament four times, in 1971, 1972, 1973 and 1975. Only Pete Sampras and Ivan Lendl won more titles there. Năstase was the first professional sports figure to sign an endorsement contract with Nike in 1972.

His reputation for gamesmanship resulted in the nickname "Nasty" after several incidents where his temperament got the better of him. For one year, other players scorned him in locker rooms and did not speak to him. In his recent book, Nastase claimed that he slept with around 2,500 women. After hearing this, his wife said that she was happy to have conquered such a man.

He has recently been President of the Romanian Tennis Federation. A quick google seach reveals that in 2002 he was still courting publicity, responding to a report that three Romanian ex-Olympic champion gymnasts were to pose nude for a Japanese magazine by offering to do so himself at the age of 56 - "They are entitled to do whatever they want with their bodies. Personally I have nothing against it. I'm waiting for offers", he is quoted as saying.
He also ran for mayor of Bucharest (unsuccessfully) in the early 90s. I think he has maintained business ties with Tiriac who has made himself very rich in the banking and insurance business. Nastase had a fantastic little cameo on Michael Palin's New Europe series recently.

Tennis players are, like most professional sportspeople, a lot more boring these days because they are trained from childhood to focus on one thing alone in order to get to the top.
kite has actually hit with nastase back in 98 or 99. I sometimes get to see the old devil playing veterans doubles at wimbledon. His touch on the volley has not diminished and hes great to watch. Though i doubt he has badgered as many lassies as he says he has!
Ion Ţiriac was also Borris Beckers' manager and Ions' party piece at the post Wimbledon party was to eat light bulbs.
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