The world would be a far less colourful place without characters such as Ilie Nastase. Even during a crucial phase of a match, he was likely to do something bizarre that would entertain the crowd.
Nastase was a genius on the tennis court. He possessed a staggering range of shots and a delicate touch. And there have been few players who could match his speed around the court. At his best, he could conjure up the most devastating tennis, but he was an unpredictable magician.
For most people, his most memorable game was the 1972 Wimbledon final against Stan Smith - an epic encounter between two very different players. Smith took the title in an enthralling five-setter but sympathy lay with the volatile Romanian.
However, Nastase was to win his first grand slam title later that year, beating American Arthur Ashe in the US Open. In 1973 he was in sensational form –he won a second singles grand slam (this time the French Open), a doubles title at Wimbledon and a third Masters title. Not surprisingly he became world number one.
Until Nastase, Romania had never featured in Davis Cup. But with the help of Ion Tiriac, Nastase took his country to three memorable Davis Cup finals.
Nastase’s career spanned the amateur and professional eras. He is the only Romanian tennis player ever to be ranked No.1 in the world, he was the first European to pass $1 million in prize money and is one of a handful of players to win more than 100 pro titles in singles and doubles. He’s a big draw at Champions Invitational matches where it’s easy to see how, in his heyday, his talent and personality attracted millions of new fans to the game.
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Date of birth: 19 July 1946
Place of birth: Bucharest, Romania
Honours and achievements
1976: Wimbledon finalist
1975: Wins fourth Masters title
1975: US Open doubles champion
1973: Ranked No 1
1973: Wimbledon doubles champion
1973: French Open champion
1972: US Open champion
1972: Wimbledon finalist
1970: French Open doubles champion