Tennis Prose



Biofile Ilie Nastase Interview


By Scoop Malinowski

Status: Former French Open and U.S. Open champion. Tennis Hall of Famer.

Born: July 19, 1946 in Bucharest, Romania.

Childhood Hero: “The first picture of Roy Emerson in Romanian newspaper. I didn’t have anyone to look up to. I play tennis the way I feel.”

Hobbies/Interests: “I’m into cars. I collect Brancusi sculptures. He was a unique Romanian sculptor. Died in 1957. And collecting old watches. I have about 70 or 80 watches. I buy them because I love all watches. Probably because I didn’t have any as a kid. Watch soccer and hockey. Hockey is so fast. You only realize how difficult it is when you try to skate. Amazing game. A little bit like soccer.”

Nicknames: “Nasty – which is going to stay forever (smiles). And Nasty Boy – from Jimmy Connors.”

Favorite Movies: “Movies with Clint Eastwood. I know him personally. I met him at La Costa in California. He was taking lessons. We played pro-am and became friends. He invited me to L.A. (Scoop Malinowski: “How was Eastwood as a tennis player?”) He’s 6-foot-6, he’s huge! Very tall. Very slow. Slowest person in the world. Good in golf though.”

Musical Tastes: “Elvis, definitely. The Beatles, Rolling Stones.”

Favorite Books: “I’m not patient. I don’t read much. I like the cassettes. Easier. I have a problem with concentration.”

Early Tennis Memory: “I remember holding a racquet in my hand and going to the soccer field. I always carried my racquet with me. I loved soccer and tennis. Soccer helped a lot with coordination. Sprints and short stops – a big help for me.”

First Job: “Army Lieutenant (age 22). Then I was a Major when I was 30.”

Favorite Meal: “Italian. I lived two years in Italy. I had Italian food every day. It wasn’t enough (smiles).”

Favorite Ice Cream Flavor: “Any fruit flavor.”

Greatest Sports Moment: “Inducted into Hall of Fame in 1991. That mean everything.”

Closest Tennis Friends: “Connors – he’s godfather for my kids. I’m godfather for his kids. Ion Tiriac. Vitas Gerulaitis was a friend. Guillermo Vilas. Adriano Panatta. Tom Okker. Manuel Orantes.”

Funniest Tennis Players: “Eddie Dibbs. Arthur Ashe said, I can take one of you in the locker room, but not both! We used to drive him crazy (smiles).”

Favorite Tennis Players To Watch: “Pete Sampras. Miloslav Mecir. John McEnroe – the biggest talent. Ken Rosewall. Rod Laver. Pancho Gonzalez. Connors. Bjorn Borg, Agassi. Kuerten. All the champions. They all have something special about them. I go for the natural, born-to-be tennis players. Guys like that I’m looking for.”

Interesting Fact: “I’ve never been in a fight in my life. Which is amazing. I was an animal on the court. I think my temperament is balanced. I’m calm off the court. To be that intense on the court, and to be balanced off – good for me. Off the court, anyone can kill me. On the court, I’m opposite.”

Residences: New York, Bucharest, Paris.

Career Accomplishments: The holder of 57 titles including Roland Garros in 1973 and the U.S. Open in 1972. A two-time Wimbledon runner-up, Nastase won Grand Slam doubles titles at Roland Garros (with Tiriac in 1970), Wimbledon (with Connors in ’73) and U.S. Open (with Connors in ’75). Reached #1 in the world in 1973 and led Romania to three Davis Cup finals.

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  • Dan Markowitz · June 24, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    Nice job, Scoop. When did you conduct this interview? Great pic of Nastase, I love it; down on one knee. I love that he loves “born-to-be” players because he was certainly one of them. That’s a great quote by Ashe, too. “I can take one of you (Nastase or Dibbs) in the locker room at the same time, but not both.”

    I think the game because of the money and the political correctness now, has lost a lot of the characters of yesteryear. Is there any true character out there now. Gulbis and Djokovic had potential, but they’re tame now. I love watching Tsonga do his victory dance and Monfils is a bit of a character, but subdued. There’s no one like Santoro or Leconte anymore. It’s interesting that American culture is supposed to be so free, but the biggest characters have always been French, with the exception of Nastase, Andrew Ilie, Rusedski and I guess Dibbs. Kuerten was a bit of a character and so is Fernando Gonzalez, and of course, Mac and Connors were characters in a mostly negative light.

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 24, 2011 at 12:54 pm

    About 8 yrs ago. He had some really good quotes that only he could say. We can only imagine if a Nastase like character came along today, with all the media scrutiny and political correctness, he would be either driven out of the game or sent to get counseling. The extreme character aspect of the sport is long gone – Rios was the last of the Mohicans – but it’s still a great sport the way it is now. Dan you never saw Rios at his most ill-behaved, he would spit at the ball, blow it out, grab his crotch, showboat after great shots, and from what I have just learned, once even punched out one of his fans in the bathroom or a restaurant. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Will we ever see another Nasty or Rios or Jimbo or Mac? Probably not unfortunately.

  • Michael · June 24, 2011 at 11:46 pm

    You should have a search function on this site just for the biofiles. This was a really good one.

    Dan, is your memory failing ? Nastase was also a character mostly in a (very) negative light. They basically came up with the point penalty system because of him (and Connors). Jmac came along later.

    I submit the match against Pohman at the USO as an example. Or the one against C. Barazutti (sic ?) also at the USO. Actually the list goes on and on. What about the match officiated by Hammond (who, incidentally I knew as a kid to be a very nice guy and a super tennis fan and that didn’t deserve to take crap from any player let alone to have his decision to default Nasty overturned).

    But Nastase was among my top favorites to watch. Do you remember when he played mixed doubles with Renee Richards ?

  • Mark · June 26, 2011 at 12:19 am

    Scoop — I’m trying to remember the match when Nastase got so mad at a call(?) that he crawled up in the courtside tarp cylinder and refused to come out —
    That was a classic — who was he playing and where?

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 26, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    LOL!! Never heard of that one. It wasn’t on a Nastase video montage on You Tube. I will ask some of the veterans about that this summer. Nasty memories might make a really good story for the future. Thanks for the tip Mark, welcome to the site.



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