Ilie "Nasty" Năstase (Romanian pronunciation: [iˈli.e nəsˈtase] (listen), born 19 July 1946) is a Romanian former world No. 1 professional tennis player, and one of the world's top players of the 1970s. He was ranked world No. 1 from 23 August 1973 to 2 June 1974.
Năstase is one of the ten players in history who have won more than 100 ATP professional titles (58 singles and 45 in doubles). He was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1991. Năstase won seven Grand Slam titles: two in singles, three in men's doubles and two in mixed doubles. He also won four Masters Grand Prix year-end championship titles and seven Championship Series titles (1970–73), the precursors to the current Masters 1000.
He is the first male player to have won a French Open title without dropping a set (1973).
Ilie Năstase in 2009
|Born||19 July 1946|
|Height||1.82 m (6 ft 0 in)|
|Turned pro||1969 (amateur tour from 1966)|
|Plays||Right-handed (one-handed backhand)|
|Prize money||US$ 2,076,761|
|Int. Tennis HoF||1991 (member page)|
|Career record||930–354 (72.43%) in pre Open-Era & Open Era |
|Career titles||58 Open Era |
|Highest ranking||No. 1 (23 August 1973)|
|Grand Slam Singles results|
|Australian Open||1R (1981)|
|French Open||W (1973)|
|Wimbledon||F (1972, 1976)|
|US Open||W (1972)|
|Tour Finals||W (1971, 1972, 1973, 1975)|
|WCT Finals||QF (1974, 1977, 1978)|
|Career titles||45 (ATP listed)|
|Highest ranking||No. 10 (30 August 1977)|
|Grand Slam Doubles results|
|French Open||W (1970)|
|US Open||W (1975)|
|Grand Slam Mixed Doubles results|
|Wimbledon||W (1970, 1972)|
|US Open||F (1972)|
|Davis Cup||F (1969Ch, 1971Ch, 1972)|
At the beginning of his career in 1966, Năstase travelled around the world competing with his good friend Ion Țiriac. Together, they represented Romania in the Davis Cup competition, being three times runners up: in 1969, 1971, and 1972.
Năstase became one of the best players in 1970, with many experts ranking him as the sixth-best player in the world at that time, behind the Australians Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall, John Newcombe, and Tony Roche and the American Arthur Ashe. Năstase's high ranking resulted from his success at the Italian Open in Rome and at the U.S. Indoor Open in Salisbury, Maryland. With Tiriac, Năstase won the men's doubles title at the French Open.
In 1972, he became the no. 2 in the world, owing to his winning the US Open in a five-set final over Arthur Ashe. This tournament was the only event of the year in which all the best players participated. Two months before at Wimbledon, Năstase narrowly lost to Stan Smith in an epic five-set final, one of the most exciting championship matches there. Although Smith took the title, public sympathy lay with the volatile Romanian.
In the Davis Cup, Năstase was undefeated in singles until losing to Stan Smith in the final played on clay in his native Bucharest. In December at the year-end tour finals, Năstase took revenge against Smith, winning his second consecutive Masters Grand Prix title.
In 1973, he was in sensational form. By winning 17 tournaments, including the French Open, a doubles title at Wimbledon, and a third Masters title, Năstase was the undisputed world No.1 that year. In the Davis Cup, he won seven of eight singles rubbers, including a victory over Tom Okker, the "Flying Dutchman." In matches against the other top players, Năstase was 1–0 against Newcombe and 1–1 against Smith. The Romanian won the French Open without dropping a set (a feat repeated by Björn Borg in 1978 and 1980 and by Rafael Nadal in 2008, 2010 and 2017), and he won the French Open (clay), Rome (clay) and Queen's Club (grass) in succession, a feat never repeated in the open era, though Borg won Rome, the French Open, and Wimbledon in succession in 1978, and Nadal won the French Open, Queen's Club, and Wimbledon in succession in 2008. Năstase was seeded no.2 for Wimbledon 1973, behind the defending champion Stan Smith. When the newly formed ATP withdrew its players from the tournament following the suspension by the ITF of Yugoslav Nikola Pilić, only three ATP players (Năstase, Roger Taylor and Ray Keldie) defied the boycott and were fined by the ATP's disciplinary committee. Nastase was promoted to no.1 seed for the players in the subsequently weakened field and publicly stated his support for the ATP action but insisted that as a serving Captain, he was under orders from the Romanian army and government to compete and thus could not boycott the tournament. Some contemporary press speculation and later biographies have suggested Năstase contrived to lose his fourth round match to American Sandy Mayer, but to have lost any earlier to a considerably less able player would have been too obvious. Năstase has never publicly commented on this speculation.
In 1974, he was the only player to qualify for both the WCT Finals and the Masters Grand Prix finals. As usual, Năstase played well in the Masters, in particular against Newcombe in the semifinals. (Năstase finished his career with a 4–1 record versus Newcombe, losing only their first match in 1969.) The Romanian, however, lost the final to Guillermo Vilas in five sets.
For the fifth consecutive year, Năstase reached the Masters Grand Prix Final in 1975, where he defeated Björn Borg, 6–2, 6–2, 6–1.
During the first half of 1976, Năstase won four tournaments (Atlanta WCT, Avis Challenge Cup WCT, US Open Indoor, and La Costa), and head-to-head, he led Connors 2–1, Vilas 1–0, Ashe 1–0, and Borg 2–0. Năstase did not enter the Australian Open, which was again avoided by most of the top players. Năstase was prevented from entering the French Open because he participated in World Team Tennis. In the second half of the year, Nastase lost to Borg in the men's singles final of Wimbledon and in the semifinals of the US Open. Năstase won three other tournaments during the second half of the year, the Pepsi Grand Slam, South Orange, and the four-man tournament of Caracas, Venezuela, in October (not to be confused with the Caracas WCT tournament in March), making seven tournament championships for the year. Năstase was the world No. 3, behind Connors and Borg.
In 1977, Năstase finished no. 9 in the ATP rankings. He was a quarterfinalist at the French Open and at Wimbledon (losing to Borg), and participated in the WCT Finals. It was during his quarterfinal match at Wimbledon that Năstase had a memorable row with umpire Jeremy Shales. Shales called him "Năstase" when asking him to move to the advantage court, "like a master speaks to a naughty schoolboy." (Năstase has also said Shales asked him to pick up a piece of paper that had blown onto the court, saying, "Năstase, pick up that paper.") Năstase angrily replied, "You call me Mr. Năstase!". Since this incident umpires have always used a courtesy title when addressing the players directly. Mr. Nastase later became the title of his autobiography.
Năstase was still one of the 20 best players in 1978. At Wimbledon, he again reached the quarterfinals, losing to Okker after defeating Roscoe Tanner.
During the remainder of his career, Năstase steadily declined and only occasionally defeated a good player, such as Johan Kriek in the third round of the 1982 US Open. Năstase retired from the tour in October 1985 at the age of 39 after playing in the tournament in Toulouse, although he did play the challenger tournament at Dijon in June 1988.
In 1977, Năstase used a 'spaghetti string' (double-strung) racquet to end Guillermo Vilas's 46 match winning streak. The racquet was known for creating large amounts of top spin and unpredictable bounces. Vilas considered quitting the match in protest of the racquet. A few days later, the ATP banned the use of such racquets.
During the US Open in 1979, Năstase was defaulted from his match against John McEnroe. The umpire had previously docked Năstase a point in third set and then a game in the fourth for arguing and stalling. A near riot followed as the crowd disagreed with the umpire's decision, by throwing beer cans and cups on court. The match was eventually restarted with the umpire being replaced before McEnroe ran out the winner.
In 2017, while captaining his country's Fed Cup team against Great Britain, Năstase was overheard commenting about Serena Williams' unborn child and asked Britain's Fed Cup captain Anne Keothavong for her room number. Năstase had previously made unfounded comments about Williams allegedly doping. Before the Great Britain and Romania began their two-day World Group play-off, Năstase had allegedly stormed in to the media centre to confront British journalists over the reporting of his comments the previous day. Năstase could only find Press Association tennis correspondent Eleanor Crook before launching into a tirade about the reporting. During the second rubber he was ejected from the stadium for unsportsmanlike conduct. In a statement the International Tennis Federation (ITF) additionally confirmed that Năstase had his accreditation removed and would take no further part in the tie. The next day the ITF provisionally suspended Năstase under the Fed Cup Regulations for a breach of the Fed Cup Welfare Policy; meaning that he was banned from the site of any ITF event. When Năstase was ejected from the stadium he met Crook again and, separated by a large number of security guards, verbally attacked her. The next day, despite being banned from the venue, Năstase reappeared and went to have lunch in the onsite restaurant. He additionally sent flowers to the British team. On the 21st of July 2017 he was suspended by the ITF until 2021.
Williams released a statement on social media branding the comments about her unborn child as racist, noting that it saddened her that we live in a society where these comments can be made. Năstase then apologised on social media regarding the comments he made about Williams, but made comments about Konta speaking to the umpire which upset him. In a further interview with the BBC, Năstase justified his comments to Konta stating that he only abused her after being ejected from the court and did so as a fan rather than a captain. Năstase additionally added that he regretted his behaviour in the incident. Nastase was not invited to the French Open and Wimbledon following his suspension. The Madrid Open however invited Nastase to be part of the prize giving ceremony, which was won by Simona Halep (another Romanian player). This was a move that was deemed irresponsible by the WTA who had revoked Nastase's privileges while the ITF carried out its investigation.
Further allegations of sexism from Năstase then came to light. Pam Shriver said that Năstase would frequently in a joking manner ask if she was still a virgin. After about thirty occasions of this happening Shriver asked him to stop saying that, which he did. Dominique Monami, captain of the Belgium team, then mentioned that Năstase had abused her in the round prior to the match with Great Britain. Monami later added that Năstase was abusive for two games during the Elise Mertens and Irina-Camelia Begu match.
Considered one of the most gifted tennis players in history, Ilie Năstase was noted both for his sorcery with the racket and his ability to entertain, amusing spectators with his antics and mimicry. Even during a crucial phase of a match, he was likely to do something bizarre that would entertain the crowd. Nicknamed the "Bucharest Buffoon", Năstase could master all the shots, playing either baseline or serve-and-volley.
One of the fastest players, he is remembered for his magnificent lobs and retrieves. Năstase could apply a discomfiting spin to his shots, being an expert at putting the ball just beyond an opponent's reach. His greatest weakness was a fragile nervous system and erratic temperament, but when he maintained his concentration during a match, he could conjure up the most devastating tennis, being regarded as a tennis magician or an artist creating with great originality and panache.
Năstase pioneered a distinctive tennis shot, a backward, over-the-shoulder wrist-flick useful as a last resort in recovering lobs. Tennis writer Bud Collins dubbed the shot the "Bucharest Backfire" after Năstase.
He holds the rank of Major General in the Romanian military.
He entered politics in the 1990s, making an unsuccessful run for mayor of Bucharest in 1996. Elected to the Romanian Senate for a Bucharest seat in 2012, he initially sat for the Conservative Party, switching to the National Union for the Progress of Romania in July 2015, after the former party ceased to exist.
Năstase has been married four times: his first wife was Dominique Grazia, a Belgian fashion model, whom he married at the age of 26, and with whom he has a daughter, Nathalie. They were married for ten years. His second wife was American actress Alexandra King, whom he married in 1984 and with whom he adopted two children, Nicholas and Charlotte. His third wife was Romanian fashion model Amalia Teodosescu, whom he married in 2004. They have two children, Alessia and Emma Alexandra. After they split up in 2010, he married Romanian fashion model Brigitte Sfăt in 2013.
Maxim has placed Năstase at number 6 on its top ten "Living Sex Legends" list, as he is reputed to have slept with over 2500 women. Năstase's own guess, which was at 800–900 women, was too low for the writer of his biography who wanted a larger number, to improve his reputation, as it evidently did. After hearing this, his third wife, Amalia, said that she was happy to have conquered such a man. Năstase met Amalia at a Sting concert and married her in a Greek Orthodox ceremony on 5 June 2004 followed by a Civil ceremony in July of the same year. They divorced in February 2010, after six years of marriage.
On 25 May 2018, Năstase was arrested twice within a six-hour span in one day for drunk driving and riding a scooter through a red light.
Qualifying matches and Walkovers are neither official match wins nor losses.
|Australian Open||1R||0 / 1||0–1||0.00|
|French Open||2R||1R||QF||F||1R||W||QF||3R||QF||1R||3R||2R||3R||1R||1 / 14||33–13||71.74|
|Wimbledon||3R||4R||2R||F||4R||4R||2R||F||QF||QF||3R||1R||1R||0 / 13||35–13||72.92|
|US Open||4R||3R||W||2R||3R||QF||SF||2R||2R||2R||1R||4R||1R||1R||1R||1 / 15||29–14||67.44|
|Win–Loss||0–0||0–0||1–1||5–3||7–2||9–3||13–2||11–2||9–3||7–3||10–2||9–3||4–1||1–2||3–2||2–4||4–3||2–2||0–2||0–1||2 / 42||97–41||70.29|
|The Masters||W||W||W||F||W||4 / 5||22–3||88.00|
|Davis Cup||P||P||P||F||P||F||F||SF||QF||P||P||QF||P||QF||1R||2R||1R||0 / 17||74–22||77.08|
|Titles–Finals||0–0||0–0||0–0||1–2||2–3||7–11||12–16||15–18||6–11||5–9||6–13||3–5||2–5||0–1||0–0||0–2||0–0||0–0||0–0||0–0||*59 / 96||*59–37||61.46|
|Year End Ranking||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||1||10||7||3||9||16||49||79||79||79||118||202||431||$2,076,761|
|Championship||Years||Record accomplished||Player tied|
|Masters Grand Prix||1971–1975||88.00% (22–3) match winning percentage||Stands alone|
|Grand Prix Tour||1968–1985||42 five set match wins||Stands alone|
|WCT Challenge Cup||1976–1978||3 singles titles||Stands alone|
|Omaha Open||1972–1973||2 singles titles||Stands alone|
| World No. 1
23 August 1973 – 2 June 1974