Tennis – Federation Cup – Ilie Nastase
Ilie Nastase, captain of the Rumanian Fed Cup tennis team, held true to his status as tennis’s ‘bad boy’. The Fed Cup is the premier international team competition in women’s tennis, launched in 1963 to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the International Tennis Federation (ITF). The competition was known as the Federation Cup until 1995. The Fed Cup is the world’s largest annual women’s international team sports competition, in terms of the number of nations that compete. Ilie Nastase, captaining the Romanian team against Great Britain in their 2017 Fed Cup face-off , got himself thrown out and suspended by the the ITF for his behavior.
Tennis – Ilie Nastase
Ilie Nastasie developed a negative image and reputation, in spite of his obvious talent.
When I was tennis director in Hampton, Virginia, back in the early 70’s, a series of tennis exhibitions were arranged by Bill Reardon between Illie Nastase and Jimmy Connors, primarily on the East coast. The unofficial word at that time was that these exhibitions were guaranteed money, even though they were promoted as ‘head to head’, winner take all matches. It turns out the money was guaranteed for both players, which, if promoted as such, would not have drawn the crowds. Granted the onus was on Bill Reardon as the promoter, but it also left a tainted image of the two professional players that they were part of a false promotion.
Subsequently moving to New Jersey I became tennis director at the East Orange Tennis Club. I was invited to the professional $10,000 tournament held at Orange Lawn Tennis Club, where Ilie Nastase was playing. The president of my club invited me out with himself and Ilie Nastase after Ilie’s evening match. As we were walking out of the club, three young ladies joined us. Not understanding the situation I asked about them. Ilie and Michael told me they were ‘company’ for the evening. Ilie had recently been married. I excused myself and went home to my wife and family, quite disappointed.
1979 US OPEN
In 1979 I was at the US Open when Ilie Nastase played John McEnroe in the second round of the evening match. Ilie always had the reputation as a player who was athletically gifted above the other players. In his mind though Ilie loved playing ‘cat and mouse’. If he was the better player he would literally play mental and strategical games on court to make fun of his opponent. For example, instead of winning a point outright, he would hit a drop shot, or another shot, to give the player another chance at keeping the ball in play, just to play with him. Watching him athletically, he was so talented. He just could not focus 100% on being true to his talent. He opted for gamesmanship. He ruined Frank Hammond’s (a stellar official respected by all the other professional players) career in that US Open match. Ilie opted for a pathway in life that was outrageous at times, yet so gifted and talented at others.
Hopefully you have read the account of Ilie’s behavior at the Fed Cup? If you haven’t, please do so. If you were on the committee who suspended him what would your input be? Would you give him the benefit of the doubt and not suspend him for life, or, would you vote the game would be better served without him?