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Full of rollicking anecdotes a splendid book. -- Mail on Sunday
About the Author
Ilie Nastase, born in Bucharest in July 1946, won 88 singles and 80 doubles titles, which included the US and French Opens, three Grand Slam doubles titles and was ranked No.1 in the world in 1973. He is the oldest player currently competing on the Senior's tour and is President of the Romanian Tennis Federation. Debbie Beckerman formerly ran the sports imprint Partridge Press at Transworld Publishers and now divides her time between writing articles for The Times, the Daily Telegraph and the Guardian among others, and ghost-writing.
This is an entertaining book about one of the most charismatic players of the Open era. Win or loose he enjoyed the game like few ever did. He was active on the ATP tour until 37. And, he still reached the 4th round of the US Open at 36.
The book's appendix discloses fascinating statistics. You can see his win/loss track record against many players. His career being so long, it tied the Australian era to the Open era. Thus, he had a 9-2 record against an aging Rod Laver (8 years older) but a 3-5 record against a young McEnroe (13 years younger). These records don't mean anything. One champion is aging while the other is entering his prime.
As a man, he had much fun. Per his own estimate, he bedded 2,500 groupies. He had a wonderful love affair during his first marriage. Even though it predictably ended in divorce , the divorce was not wrenching affair vs what Becker and McEnroe endured. Nastase's relationship with women was similar to the one he had with the public. No one could be mad at him for too long.
Nastase lost mental control in his matches. Unlike Connors and McEnroe who could create winning strategies out of the chaos, Nastase was the victim of his shenanigans. His bad behavior cost him tens of thousands of dollars in penalties.
As a result of his lack of mental control, Nastase's legacy is a fraction of what his talent warranted. He won only two Grand Slam tournaments (73 French Open and 72 US Open). Tens of players have far greater legacies.
Nevertheless, Nastase still fascinates. In fact Federer's versatile game most resembles Nastase. Both men have the ability to win on any surface against any opponents, and hit shots nobody else can.Read more ›
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If I'm not missing any, this is the fourth book published about the charismatic and controversial Ilie Nastase (two of which were published in France). This speaks volumes for the popularity enjoyed by this genius of tennis.
Nastase is one of the reasons tennis became so hugely popular back in the 1970s. His talent and personality brought millions of new fans to the game. His combined singles titles (57) and doubles (51) of Grand Prix, WCT and ATP sanctioned tournaments of Open Tennis (since 1968) is only surpassed by John McEnroe - no coincidence here since they are the two greatest natural talents seen in tennis. His Davis Cup record is also phenomenal, playing and winning more matches than anybody else, except Nikki Pietrangeli. Contrary to some erroneous assumptions made by another reviewer, Nastase never left Romania. He did not need to do so, since he was allowed to keep all his earnings. This was part of the deal made with the Romanian Communist authorities, in return for his free and unconditional availability of playing Davis Cup matches.
Reading the book I discovered with great surprise and regret that he is not yet a member of the Wimbledon All England Club. After all, this is the guy that won three Wimbledon doubles titles and played in other two singles finals (the one from 1972 is still regarded as one of the most beautiful and memorable ever played at Wimbledon!). Last but not least, he is the one that saved Wimbledon in 1973 when almost all of the big names boycotted the tournament.....I sincerely believe is still not too late for Wimbledon to rectify this injustice.....
Finally, I would like to recommend in addition to this wonderful book another excellent one on Nastase. This one, by Richard Evans, was published in 1977 here in USA under "Nasty: Ilie Nastase vs. Tennis" and in England under "Nastase". Any of these and "Mr. Nastase" would certainly make any Nastase fan very, very happy!!
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I remember watching TV in the seventies, seeing Ilie Nastase's matches at Wimbledon. Ilie was definitely one of the most interesting players to watch, as we never knew what he was going to do next. Reading his autobiography, it is clear that even Ilie never knew either. He played tennis for the pure enjoyment of it and wasn't that bothered about the money, so sometimes he got angry on court while at other times he laughed and joked.
In this book, Ilie tells us about some of the disputes he had with officials, admitting that he was sometimes at fault but not always, especially pointing to two episodes where umpires were blamed. In a match where Ilie's opponent was John McEnroe, the umpire was changed during the match because the first umpire had clearly lost control. Ilie also discusses some of his matches against Stan Smith, Jimmy Connors (with whom he won some top doubles titles), Bjorn Borg, Vitas Gerulaitis, Arthur Ashe and others. Perhaps the funniest on-court incident concerns a black cat. Ilie knew that one of his opponents in a forthcoming doubles match was very superstitious about black cats and smuggled a black cat onto court concealed in his tennis bag, releasing the cat early in the match, which he and his partner won very easily.
The book is by no means limited to Ilie's career as a tennis player as it also covers his childhood, his womanizing, his three marriages, his four children (two of them adopted), his attempt to become mayor of Bucharest (which he looked certain to win at one stage but ultimately lost narrowly) and so much more. Ilie was particularly shocked by the deaths of Vitas Gerulaitis (from gas poisoning caused by a faulty heating system) and Arthur Ashe (from AIDS caused by infected blood).Read more ›