General Ilie
Nastase
Male
Romania
1946-07-19
Bucaresti, Romania


About

No player in history has been more gifted or mystifying than the 'Bucharest Buffoon', Ilie Nastase, noted both for his sorcery with the racket and his bizarre, even objectionable behavior. He was an entertainer second to none, amusing spectators with his antics and mimicry, also infuriating them with gaucheries and walkouts. Despite a fragile nervous system and erratic temperament, Nastase - a slender 6-footer, quick, leggy and athletic - could do everything, and when his concentration held together he was an artist creating with great originality and panache.

His record in the season-closing Masters was spectacular. He won four times, 1971-73, '75, and was finalist to Guillermo Vilas in five sets in 1974. Born July 19, 1946, in Bucharest, he was the greatest of his country, the first Romanian of international prominence. Largely through his play that small country rose to the Davis Cup final on three occasions, 1969, '71-'72, losing each time to the U.S. At the end of 1985 after playing Davis Cup since 1966, Nastase ranked second behind Italian Nicola Pietrangeli among the busiest players in Cup history, the only men to have won more than 100 matches. Nastase, 11 wins behind, captured 109: 74-22 in singles, 35-15 in doubles for 52 series. Romania was favored to lift the Cup from the U.S. in the 1972 finale on the friendly slow clay of Nastase's hometown. However, his nervousness combined with an inspired performance by Stan Smith added up to an 11-9, 6-2, 6-3 victory for the American in the crucial opening singles, and the U.S. kept the Cup, 3-2.

Nastase's foremost disappointment occurred three months prior, when Smith narrowly defeated him in the Wimbledon final, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 7-5, one of the most exciting championship matches there. Nastase was in another Wimbledon singles final in 1976, but was beaten easily by Bjorn Borg. Nastase, a right-hander, first came to attention in 1966 when he and his first mentor, countryman Ion Tiriac, reached the final of the French doubles, losing to Clark Graebner and Dennis Ralston.

Romania was a nowhere nation in Davis Cup until Nastase came along to link with the hulking, Draculanice hockey luminary, Tiriac. The country had entered sporadically since first joining in 1922, winning only one series before 1959. That year Tiriac, from Count Dracula's Transylvanian neighborhood, spurred a couple of wins. Still, Romania had won but nine prior to the 1969 Ilie-Ion splurge of five victories that carried them to the semis against Britain, a 3-2 victory at Wimbledon. There the irrepressible duo, then unknown, flabbergasted everybody, themselves included - "we can't play on this grass," said Tiriac after beating Mark Cox on opening day. It took a fifth match victory by Nastase over Cox to propel them into the final against the U.S. in Cleveland. Another foreign surface, asphalt, plus Arthur Ashe and Stan Smith ended the unfamiliar joyride, 5-0. But they became very familiar figures, getting to the final in the U.S. again in 1971, and getting closer, 3-2. However, it was Ilie's failure against Smith in the opening match (7-5, 6-3, 6-1) that made the difference, as it was a year later in Bucharest. By 1970 Nastase began to assert himself. He won the Italian singles over French Open champ Jan Kodes and jolted Cliff Richey in the U.S. Indoor final.

Following his Davis Cup and Wimbledon heartaches of 1972, Nastase had the immeasurable consolation of winning the U.S. Open at Forest Hills from a seeming losing position, down 2-4 in the fourth set and a service break to open the fifth against Ashe. The score: 3-6, 6-3,6-7 (1-5), 6-4, 6-3. It was his only major grass-court singles prize. His finest season was 1973, when he was regarded as No. 1 in the world after winning the most one-sided Italian final, 6-1, 6-1, 6-1, over Manolo Orantes, the French, over Nikola Pilic, 6-3, 6-3, 6-0, and 13 other titles, plus downing Tom Okker in the Masters final, 6-3, 7-5, 4-6, 6-3. That season he won 15 of 31 tourneys on a 118-17 match record, also eight doubles for an overall total of 23, tying Rod Laver's open-era record (17 singles, 6 doubles), broken by John McEnroe's 27 in 1979.

Though he provoked controversy, and his career was marred by fines, disqualifications, and suspensions, Nastase was good-natured, likeable and friendly off-court. He had a sense of humor in his on-court shenanigans, but frequently did not know when to stop and lost control of himself.
"I am a little crazy," he said, "but I try to be a good boy." His comrade, Tiriac, amicably put it this way: "His brain is like a bird in a cage." He was expert at putting the ball just beyond an opponent's reach, and applying discomforting spin. He lobbed and retrieved splendidly, in his prime possibly the fastest player of all, and he could play either baseline or serve-and-volley. In 1976 he was the first European to exceed $1 million in career prize money, and had a career total of $2,076,761.

Nastase played World Team Tennis for Hawaii in 1976 and Los Angeles in 1977-78, leading L.A. to the league title in 1978 as player-coach. Eight times between 1970 and 1977 he was ranked in the World Top Ten, No. 1, in 1973, the year he won the French and Italian back-to-back, an unusual coupling. In a career begun in the amateur era and continued in the open era, he was one of five players to win more than 100 pro titles in singles (57) and doubles (51). He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1991. Ilie lives in New York with his American wife, Alexandra. He has been Romanian Davis Cup captain and president of the Romanian Tennis Federation. He reaped considerable international attention again by running for mayor of Bucharest in 1996, but he was defeated. "Probably a very good thing for him and Bucharest," chuckled Tiriac.

Ilie was inducted to the Tennis Hall of Fame in 1991.

Bio Courtesy Bud Collins



Media


Archive statistics 1962 - 1985
98
1437
1043


Tournament wins 1980 - Djakarta Invitation (Amateur)
1979 - Hamburg Indoor (Open)
1979 - Baron de Vidal Cup (Open)
1978 - WCT Challenge Cup ()
1978 - Frankfurt Indoor (Open)
1978 - Miami Classic (Grand Prix Circuit)
1977 - Abierto Mexicano (ATP World Tour 250 series)
1977 - WCT Challenge Cup ()
1977 - Aix-en-Provence (Open)
1977 - Rotterdam (Grand Prix Circuit)
1976 - US International Indoor Championships (Amateur)
1976 - IPA Championships (Open)
1976 - WCT Challenge Cup ()
1976 - Pepsi Grand Slam (Open)
1976 - Caracas International Round Robin ()
1976 - Club Obras Sanitarias (Open)
1976 - South Orange Open (Grand Prix Circuit)
1976 - Atlanta Open ()
1975 - World Invitation Tennis Classic ()
1975 - South Orange Open (Grand Prix Circuit)
1975 - Madrid (Open)
1975 - Valencia Open ()
1975 - Barcelona ATP Open (ATP)
1975 - Helsinki International (Amateur)
1975 - ATP World Tour Finals (ATP)
1975 - Uppsala ()
1975 - Graz (Amateur)
1975 - Vienna International Indoor ()
1975 - Rotterdam (Grand Prix Circuit)
1975 - Graz Indoor (Open)
1974 - Downeast Classic (Open)
1974 - Washington Indoor (Grand Prix Circuit)
1974 - Richmond Indoor Championships (WCT Circuit)
1974 - British Hard Court Championships (Open)
1974 - Cedar Grove Classic (Open)
1974 - Madrid Open (ATP)
1974 - World Invitation Tennis Classic ()
1974 - Conde de Godo (ATP)
1973 - Monte Carlo (Grand Prix Circuit)
1973 - Madrid (Open)
1973 - Italian International Championships ()
1973 - Queens Club Tournament (ATP)
1973 - Gstaad (ATP)
1973 - Turkish International Championships (Turkey Open) (Open)
1973 - Florence International (Amateur)
1973 - Cincinnati (ATP)
1973 - Paris Indoor (Open)
1973 - ATP World Tour Finals (ATP)
1973 - Barcelona International (Amateur)
1973 - Whitefish Bay Classic ()
1973 - Conde de Godo (ATP)
1973 - Rothmans Tennis Spectacular (Open)
1973 - Midland International Indoors (Open)
1973 - Canadian Indoors (Grand Prix Circuit)
1973 - Roland Garros (Grandslam)
1973 - Washington Indoor - II (Grand Prix Circuit)
1972 - US Open (Grandslam)
1972 - Midland International Indoors (Open)
1972 - Monte Carlo (Grand Prix Circuit)
1972 - Madrid (Open)
1972 - Baltimore International Indoors (Open)
1972 - Nice (Grand Prix Circuit)
1972 - Düsseldorf International Tournament ()
1972 - Canadian International Championships ()
1972 - Rainier Classic (Grand Prix Circuit)
1972 - Eastern Grass Court Championships (Amateur)
1972 - Dewar Cup Finals (Open)
1972 - ATP World Tour Finals (ATP)
1971 - Hampton (Grand Prix Circuit)
1971 - Midland International Indoors (Open)
1971 - Richmond Indoor Championships (WCT Circuit)
1971 - Nice (Grand Prix Circuit)
1971 - Monte Carlo (Grand Prix Circuit)
1971 - ATP World Tour Finals (ATP)
1971 - British Covered Court Championships (Amateur)
1971 - Turkish International Championships (Turkey Open) (Open)
1971 - Bastad (Open)
1971 - båstad Champions Cup (Open)
1970 - US International Indoor Championships (Amateur)
1970 - Ancona (Open)
1970 - Italian International Championships ()
1970 - Napoli (Open)
1969 - Indian Hard Courts (Open)
1969 - Indian International Championships (Amateur)
1969 - Colombia International (Amateur)
1969 - La Coruna (Open)
1969 - East India and All Assam Hardcourts (Amateur)
1969 - Ancona (Open)
1969 - Travemünde International (Amateur)
1969 - Denver VASS Invitation (Amateur)
1969 - Hungarian International Championships (Open)
1968 - Viareggio (Amateur)
1968 - Romanian International Championship (Open)
1968 - Romanian National Championships (Open)
1967 - Travemünde International (Amateur)
1967 - Cannes Carlton (Amateur)
1967 - Romanian National Championships (Open)
1964 - Halle an der Saale (Amateur)


Tournaments US Open - 1985 Monte Carlo - 1984 Roland Garros - 1984 US Open - 1984 Kiva Tennis Classic - 1984 Monte Carlo - 1983 Roland Garros - 1983 US Open - 1983 Wimbledon - 1982 Monte Carlo - 1982 Roland Garros - 1982 US Open - 1982 Australian Open - 1981 Wimbledon - 1981 Monte Carlo - 1981 Roland Garros - 1981 US Open - 1981 Nice - 1981 Pacific Coast Championship - 1981 Cincinnati - 1981 US Clay Courts - 1981 Italian International Championships - 1981 US International Indoor Championships - 1981 West of England Championships - 1981 Swiss International Covered Courts - 1981 Stuttgart - 1981 Paris Indoor - 1981 South Orange Open - 1981 Toronto Indoor - 1981 Tel Aviv Open - 1981 Denver - 1981 Las Vegas - 1981 Stockholm Open - 1981 Oklahoma Open - 1981 World Star - 1981 Vina Del Mar - 1981 Lorraine Open - 1981 WCT - Frankfurt Open - 1981 Guaruja - 1981 Cali International - 1981 San Remo Challenger - 1981 AMF Head Cup - 1981 Long Island Exhibition - 1981 Tel Aviv Pro - 1981 Wimbledon - 1980 Monte Carlo - 1980 US Open - 1980 Austrian International Championships - 1980 Pacific Southwest Championships - 1980 ABN AMRO Rotterdam - 1980 Richmond Indoor Championships - 1980 Indian Wells - 1980 Stuttgart - 1980 Philadelphia Indoors - 1980 Milano Indoors - 1980 Djakarta Invitation - 1980 Tel Aviv Open - 1980 Columbus Open - 1980 Birmingham International Indoor - 1980 WCT Challenge Cup - 1980 Wembley Indoor - 1980 Sarasota Open - 1980 Stowe - 1980 World Star - 1980 Brussels Indoor - 1980 WCT - Salisbury - 1980 WCT - Frankfurt Open - 1980 Sao Paulo Cup - 1980 Dubai Golden - 1980 Monte Carlo - 1979 Roland Garros - 1979 US Open - 1979 Cincinnati - 1979 Italian International Championships - 1979 Pacific Southwest Championships - 1979 German International Championships - 1979 ABN AMRO Rotterdam - 1979 Richmond Indoor Championships - 1979 Philadelphia Indoors - 1979 Atlanta Open - 1979 Milano Indoors - 1979 Tel Aviv Open - 1979 Columbus Open - 1979 Birmingham International Indoor - 1979 WCT - New Orleans - 1979 WCT Challenge Cup - 1979 Johannesburg Open - 1979 WCT Tournament of Champions - 1979 Sarasota Open - 1979 Serramar - 1979 Frejus - 1979 Cleveland Grand Prix - 1979 Marbella Invitation - 1979 Essen Exhibition - 1979 Hamburg Indoor - 1979 Tokyo Indoor - 1979 Frankfurt Indoor - 1979 Baron de Vidal Cup - 1979 Grand Smash Cup - 1979 San Benedetto - 1979 Aix-En-Provence Invitational - 1979 Montpellier Invitational - 1979 Buenos Aires Invitational - 1979 Wimbledon - 1978 Monte Carlo - 1978 Queens Club Tournament - 1978 River Oaks Tournament - 1978 Conde de Godo - 1978 ABN AMRO Rotterdam - 1978 Richmond Indoor Championships - 1978 Indian Wells - 1978 Philadelphia Indoors - 1978 WCT - St. Louis - 1978 Milano Indoors - 1978 WCT Finals - 1978 Baltimore International Indoors - 1978 Las Vegas - 1978 Birmingham International Indoor - 1978 Club Obras Sanitarias - 1978 Gunze World Open - 1978 Stockholm Open - 1978 WCT Challenge Cup - 1978 Wembley Indoor - 1978 Miami Classic - 1978 Ocean City CBS Invitational - 1978 Marlboro Cup - 1978 Las Vegas Indoor - 1978 WCT - Forest Hills - 1978 Sommers - 1978 World Star - 1978 Tokyo Indoor - 1978 Lucerne Invitaional - 1978 Frankfurt Indoor - 1978 WCT Challenge Cup - 1977-B Wimbledon - 1977 Roland Garros - 1977 US Open - 1977 Queens Club Tournament - 1977 Italian International Championships - 1977 River Oaks Tournament - 1977 Aix-en-Provence - 1977 ABN AMRO Rotterdam - 1977 Abierto Mexicano - 1977 Richmond Indoor Championships - 1977 Coupe Marcel Poree - 1977 Philadelphia Indoors - 1977 WCT - St. Louis - 1977 WCT - London - 1977 WCT Finals - 1977 Rotterdam - 1977 Birmingham International Indoor - 1977 Club Obras Sanitarias - 1977 Caracas International Round Robin - 1977 Gunze World Open - 1977 WCT Challenge Cup - 1977 Ocean City CBS Invitational - 1977 Virginia Beach International - 1977 Lionel Tennis Week - 1977 WCT Tournament of Champions - 1977 Cinco Saltos Neuquen - 1977 Quito Invitational - 1977 Wimbledon - 1976 US Open - 1976 Pacific Southwest Championships - 1976 US International Indoor Championships - 1976 River Oaks Tournament - 1976 Nottingham - 1976 Indian Wells - 1976 Philadelphia Indoors - 1976 Atlanta Open - 1976 Hampton - 1976 South Orange Open - 1976 Toronto Indoor - 1976 Hong Kong Open - 1976 Baltimore International Indoors - 1976 Club Obras Sanitarias - 1976 Caracas International Round Robin - 1976 World Invitation Tennis Classic - 1976 Arkansas International - 1976 WCT - Monterrey - 1976 IPA Championships - 1976 WCT - Caracas - 1976 WCT - Stockholm - 1976 WCT Challenge Cup - 1976 Pepsi Grand Slam - 1976 Jalisco Exhibition - 1976 Mexico City Exhibition - 1976 Carrasco L.T.C. - 1976 Centreville Supercup - 1976 Wembley Indoor - 1976 Pondus Cup - 1976 Wimbledon - 1975 Roland Garros - 1975 US Open - 1975 Canadian International Championships - 1975 Bermuda Championships - 1975 Italian International Championships - 1975 US International Indoor Championships - 1975 British Hard Court Championships - 1975 German International Championships - 1975 Conde de Godo - 1975 Madrid - 1975 Valencia Open - 1975 Swiss International Covered Courts - 1975 ATP World Tour Finals - 1975 Bavarian International Championships - 1975 Madrid Open - 1975 Graz - 1975 Washington Open - 1975 Paris Indoor - 1975 Helsinki International - 1975 South Orange Open - 1975 Louisville Open - 1975 Carolinas International Classic - 1975 Rotterdam - 1975 Vienna International Indoor - 1975 World Invitation Tennis Classic - 1975 Tucson - ATP - 1975 Barcelona ATP Open - 1975 North Conway - 1975 Stockholm Open - 1975 Dewar Cup - 1975 Uppsala - 1975 Graz Indoor - 1975 Wimbledon - 1974 Monte Carlo - 1974 Roland Garros - 1974 US Open - 1974 Canadian International Championships - 1974 US Clay Courts - 1974 Italian International Championships - 1974 German International Covered Court Championships - 1974 US International Indoor Championships - 1974 British Hard Court Championships - 1974 US Pro Championships - 1974 Nottingham - 1974 Conde de Godo - 1974 ATP World Tour Finals - 1974 Bavarian International Championships - 1974 ABN AMRO Rotterdam - 1974 Richmond Indoor Championships - 1974 Madrid Open - 1974 Philadelphia Indoors - 1974 Hampton - 1974 WCT Finals - 1974 Dewar Cup Finals - 1974 Toronto Indoor - 1974 Washington Indoor - 1974 WCT - Miami - 1974 World Invitation Tennis Classic - 1974 CBS Classic - 1974 Downeast Classic - 1974 Cedar Grove Classic - 1974 Wimbledon - 1973 Monte Carlo - 1973 Roland Garros - 1973 US Open - 1973 Eastern Grass Court Championships - 1973 Cincinnati - 1973 Queens Club Tournament - 1973 Italian International Championships - 1973 Pacific Southwest Championships - 1973 US International Indoor Championships - 1973 British Hard Court Championships - 1973 Barcelona International - 1973 Nottingham - 1973 Conde de Godo - 1973 Madrid - 1973 ATP World Tour Finals - 1973 Madrid Open - 1973 Gstaad - 1973 Turkish International Championships (Turkey Open) - 1973 Florence International - 1973 Paris Indoor - 1973 Midland International Indoors - 1973 Hampton - 1973 Dewar Cup Finals - 1973 Rothmans Tennis Spectacular - 1973 Des Moines International Indoors - 1973 Aryamehr Cup - 1973 Salt Lake International Indoors - 1973 Charleston International - 1973 Garcia Classic - 1973 Washington Indoor - II - 1973 Whitefish Bay Classic - 1973 Chicago International Open - 1973 Canadian Indoors - 1973 Stockholm Open - 1973 Wimbledon - 1972 Monte Carlo - 1972 Roland Garros - 1972 US Open - 1972 Canadian International Championships - 1972 Nice - 1972 Paris International Championships - 1972 Eastern Grass Court Championships - 1972 US Clay Courts - 1972 Italian International Championships - 1972 Pacific Southwest Championships - 1972 US International Indoor Championships - 1972 British Hard Court Championships - 1972 German International Championships - 1972 South of England Championships - 1972 Conde de Godo - 1972 Madrid - 1972 ATP World Tour Finals - 1972 Düsseldorf International Tournament - 1972 Jacksonville Invitation - 1972 Bastad - 1972 Dewar Cup Second Leg - 1972 Midland International Indoors - 1972 Hampton - 1972 Dewar Cup Finals - 1972 Washington Indoor - 1972 Rothman International Tournament - 1972 Clean Air Classic - 1972 Baltimore International Indoors - 1972 Kansas City International Indoor - 1972 Los Angeles Inernational - 1972 Rainier Classic - 1972 Stockholm Open - 1972 Wimbledon - 1971 Monte Carlo - 1971 Roland Garros - 1971 US Open - 1971 Nice - 1971 US International Indoor Championships - 1971 Argentina International Championships - 1971 Belgian International Championships - 1971 British Covered Court Championships - 1971 Madrid - 1971 Sicilian International Championships - 1971 Richmond Indoor Championships - 1971 Macon Indoor - 1971 US Hard Courts - 1971 Bastad - 1971 Turkish International Championships (Turkey Open) - 1971 Midland International Indoors - 1971 Hampton - 1971 båstad Champions Cup - 1971 Clean Air Classic - 1971 Stockholm Open - 1971 Wimbledon - 1970 Monte Carlo - 1970 Roland Garros - 1970 Austrian International Championships - 1970 Cincinnati - 1970 US Clay Courts - 1970 Italian International Championships - 1970 US International Indoor Championships - 1970