Ilie Năstase

Ilie Theodoriu Năstase (Romanian pronunciation: [iˈli.e nəsˈtase] (About this soundlisten), born 19 July 1946)[2] 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.

Florin Năstase
Ilie Năstase 2009 US Open 02.jpg
Năstase at the 2009 US Open.
Country (sports) Romania
Born (1946-07-19) 19 July 1946 (age 73)
Bucharest, Kingdom of Romania
Height1.82 m (6 ft 0 in)
Turned pro1969 (amateur tour from 1966)
PlaysRight-handed (one-handed backhand)
Prize money$2,076,761
Int. Tennis HoF1991 (member page)
Career record886–332
Career titles62 (9th in the Open Era)
Highest rankingNo. 1 (23 August 1973)[1]
Grand Slam Singles results
Australian Open1R (1981)
French OpenW (1973)
WimbledonF (1972, 1976)
US OpenW (1972)
Other tournaments
Tour FinalsW (1971, 1972, 1973, 1975)
WCT FinalsQF (1974, 1977, 1978)
Career record479–208
Career titles45 (ATP listed)
Highest rankingNo. 10 (30 August 1977)[1]
Grand Slam Doubles results
French OpenW (1970)
WimbledonW (1973)
US OpenW (1975)
Grand Slam Mixed Doubles results
WimbledonW (1970, 1972)
US OpenF (1972)
Team competitions
Davis CupF (1969Ch, 1971Ch, 1972)

Năstase is one of the ten players in history who have won more than 100 ATP professional titles (62 singles and 45 in doubles).[1] 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 Grand Prix Super Series titles (1970–73), the precursors to the current Masters 1000.

He was the first professional sports figure to sign an endorsement contract with Nike in 1972.[3]

Năstase wrote several novels in French in the 1980s.[4][5]

In 2015, he provided the dubbed Romanian voice of a federal agent in the film G-Force.[6]


Năstase playing a Davis Cup match against the Netherlands in The Hague (1973)
Năstase on a 2004 Romanian stamp

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.

In singles, Năstase won his first tournament at Cannes on 16 April 1967. His first victories against top players happened in 1969 in Stockholm, where he defeated Tony Roche and Stan Smith before losing to Nikola Pilić in a three-set final.

Năstase became one of the best players in 1970, with many[who?] 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 1971, Năstase was the runner-up at the French Open, where he lost the final in four sets to Jan Kodeš. In December, Năstase won his first Masters Grand Prix title, finishing in front of Stan Smith in a round robin competition.

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[7] five-set final, one of the most exciting championship matches there.[8] Although Smith took the title, public sympathy lay with the volatile Romanian.[7] 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 Năstase won 17 tournaments, including the French Open, a doubles title at Wimbledon, and a third Masters title. He 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.[9][10] 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 in three straight sets.

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, third-seeded Nastase lost in straight sets 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.[11] Shales called him "Năstase" when asking him to move to the advantage court, "like a master speaks to a naughty schoolboy."[12] (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."[13]) 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.

He was still one of the 20 best players in 1978. At Wimbledon, he again reached the quarterfinals, losing to Okker after defeating Roscoe Tanner.

Năstase retired from the tour in October 1985 at the age of 39 after playing in the Grand Prix de Tennis de Toulouse where he lost in the second round to Jakob Hlasek, 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.[14] A few days later, the ATP banned the use of such racquets.[15]

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.[16][17][18][19]

In 1994 Năstase, Davis Cup captain of his country, was banned for an away match against Great Britain, following his conduct in a tie against South Africa.[20]

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,[21] 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.[22] During the second rubber, he was ejected from the stadium for unsportsmanlike conduct.[23] 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.[24] 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.[25] When Năstase was ejected from the stadium he met Crook again and, separated by a large number of security guards, verbally attacked her.[26] 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.[27] On 21 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.[28] 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.[29] 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.[30] Nastase was not invited to the French Open and Wimbledon following his suspension.[31] 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.[32][33]

Further allegations of inappropriate behaviour included Pam Shriver claiming 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.[34] Monami later added that Năstase was abusive for two games during the Elise Mertens and Irina-Camelia Begu match.[35]

Playing styleEdit

Năstase in 1973

Considered one of the most gifted tennis players in history,[36] 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.[7] Nicknamed the "Bucharest Buffoon", Năstase could master all the shots, playing either baseline or serve-and-volley.[1]

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,[7] being regarded as a tennis magician[7] or an artist creating with great originality and panache.[1]

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.[37]

According to The Independent, Năstase is best remembered for being one of the best players never to win the singles title at Wimbledon, for his tantrums, and his good looks.[38]

Athletic distinctionsEdit

  • Năstase won the Tennis Masters Cup tournament (today ATP World Tour Finals) four times, in 1971, 1972, 1973 and 1975. Only Roger Federer (6 times), Pete Sampras, Ivan Lendl and Novak Djokovic (5 times) succeeded to win more.
  • He is one of the five tennis players (third place) in the world who won more than 100 pro titles (57 singles and 45 doubles) according to the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) website,[1] though there are many titles that are not included in the ATP statistics. (see Career statistics section).
  • Năstase was the first professional sports figure to sign an endorsement contract with Nike.

Awards and accoladesEdit

  • Năstase was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1991.
  • In March 2009, Năstase was made a knight of the France's Legion d'honneur, being acclaimed for his "impressive sporting career" and "the sense of spectacle" he created when playing.[39]
  • On 19 July 2016, his 70th birthday, Năstase received the Star of Romania, his country's highest civil award, for services to sport.[40]

Political careerEdit

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.[41] 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.[42]

Personal lifeEdit

Năstase has been married five 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[43][44]; their marriage ended in 2018.[45] In 2019 he married Ioana Simion.[46]

Maxim has placed Năstase at number 6 on its top ten "Living Sex Legends" list, as he is reputed to have slept with over 2,500 women.[47] Năstase's own estimate of 800–900 was too low for the writer of his biography who wanted a larger number, to improve his reputation, as it evidently did.[48] 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.[49]

As he played for the Army's sports club Steaua, he was an employee of the Ministry of Defence.[citation needed]. He was granted the rank of retired Major General.[50]

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.[51]

Career statisticsEdit

Singles performance timelineEdit

(W) Won; (F) finalist; (SF) semifinalist; (QF) quarterfinalist; (#R) rounds 4, 3, 2, 1; (RR) round-robin stage; (Q#) qualification round; (A) absent; (NH) not held. SR=strike rate (events won/competed)

Qualifying matches and walkovers are neither official match wins nor losses.

Tournament 1966 1967 1968 1969 1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 SR W–L Win %
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
Tournaments 0 0 2 11 11 19 32 29 27 25 23 20 22 21 19 26 24 11 12 4 338
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
Overall Win–Loss 0–2 2–2 9–2 24–13 40–13 76–12 120–20 114–17 77–21 91–21 76–13 48–19 48–21 30–23 22–25 22–26 15–25 8–13 4–14 1–4 827/1133 **827–306 72.99
Year-end ranking 1 10 7 3 9 16 49 79 79 79 118 202 431 $2,076,761
  • * including 57 pre-ATP and ATP titles
  • ** including 749 – 287 (overall – 1036) listed by the ATP


  • These records were attained in the Open Era of tennis.
Championship Years Record accomplished Player tied
Masters Grand Prix 1971–1975 88.00% (22–3) match winning percentage[52] 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

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f "ATP Legends profiles – Ilie Nastase".
  2. ^ "Famous birthdays for July 19: Brian May, Anthony Edwardsl". United Press International. 19 July 2019. Archived from the original on 19 July 2019. Retrieved 7 August 2019. Tennis Hall of Fame member Ilie Nastase in 1946 (age 73)
  3. ^ Carbasho, Tracy (2010). Nike (Corporations That Changed the World). Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 9. ISBN 978-1-59884-342-2.
  4. ^ Jim Sarni (24 August 1986). "Nastase Aces Novel Of Tennis Break Point". SunSentinel.
  5. ^ Robert Sullivan (9 November 1987). "A Tennis Tale With Faults". Sports Illustrated. Archived from the original on 2 July 2014.
  6. ^ "Ilie Năstase". Google Arts & Culture. Retrieved 10 March 2018.
  7. ^ a b c d e "Octagon > Athletes & Personalities > Ilie Nastase". 19 July 1946. Archived from the original on 23 March 2010. Retrieved 17 September 2010.
  8. ^ "Ilie Nastase "Bucharest Bufoon"". Archived from the original on 22 December 2007. Retrieved 17 September 2006.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link).
  9. ^ Evans, Richard. 'Ilie Nastase' May 1978 Aidan Ellis Publishing. ISBN 978-0856280580
  10. ^ Robertson, Max. 'Wimbledon: Centre Court of the Game' May 1984 Parkwest Publications. ISBN 978-0881864502
  11. ^ "Obituary: Jeremy Shales". The Guardian. 26 September 2005. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  12. ^ "Wimbledon 2015: The top 10 tantrums in SW19 - including Nick Kyrgios". The Telegraph. June 2015. Retrieved 20 July 2016.
  13. ^ Robertson, Peter (5 July 2014). "Whatever happened to… tennis superstar Ilie Nastase?". Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  14. ^
  15. ^ Question of the Day: Revisiting the Spaghetti Racquet. (February 2013). Retrieved on 2017-02-23.
  16. ^ "Down Memory Lane: The day John McEnroe and Ilie Nastase caused a racket at US Open -".
  17. ^ Lorge, Barry; Lorge, Barry (31 August 1979). "McEnroe Triumphs After Near-Riot" – via
  18. ^ Dwork, David. "Top 5 Ridiculous U.S. Open Moments".
  19. ^ "Hodgkinson: The US Open's quirkiest moments".
  20. ^ "Tennis: Cup ban for Nastase". 31 May 1994.
  21. ^ "Serena Williams: Ilie Nastase heard making derogatory comment". 21 April 2017 – via
  22. ^ "Ilie Nastase brands female British journalist 'stupid' after reporting his racist comment about Serena's baby".
  23. ^ "Tennis match suspended with Konta left in tears as Nastase is removed from court". 22 April 2017.
  24. ^ "Fed Cup - ITF statement regarding Ilie Nastase".
  25. ^ "Fed Cup - ITF issues Nastase provisional suspension".
  26. ^ "I was grateful for security men – PA reporter Crooks on Nastase fury – Sports Journalists' Association".
  27. ^ "Ilie Nastase strolls through the front door to defy International Tennis Federation".
  28. ^ "Serena Williams brands Ilie Nastase comments 'racist'".
  29. ^ "Ilie Nastase apologises for Fed Cup behaviour but can't resist dig at Johanna Konta".
  30. ^ "Ilie Nastase: Romania's Fed Cup captain to quit game if punished by ITF". 28 April 2017 – via
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^ "Exclusive: Ilie Nastase accused of earlier case of sexism by Belgian Fed Cup captain Dominique Monami".
  35. ^ "Ilie Nastase's previous Fed Cup misconduct laid bare by Belgian captain - 'he called me a big bitch'".
  36. ^ Ilie Nastase: Bucharest Buffoon
  37. ^ Siegel, Alan (8 September 2010). "Roger Federer and the History of Tennis Trick Shots". The Atlantic. Retrieved 6 July 2015.
  38. ^ "Nastase embodies an era with a touch of class". The Independent. London. 28 June 2003. Retrieved 5 May 2010.
  39. ^ "France honours beloved Nastase". Archived from the original on 24 July 2009. Retrieved 12 April 2009.
  40. ^ "For his 70th, Ilie Nastase awarded by Romania president". Miami Herald. 19 July 2016. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  41. ^ Jane Perlez (11 March 1996). "Ilie Nastase, Bad Boy of Tennis, Runs Hard to Take Over Bucharest CityHall". The New York Times.
  42. ^ (in Romanian) Parliamentary profile
  43. ^ "LE-A IUBIT ȘI LE-A FERICIT! ELE AU FOST MIRESELE LUI ILIE NĂSTASE!" (in Romanian). Retrieved 9 March 2014.
  44. ^ "Ilie Năstase și Brigitte Sfăt s-au casatorit. Țiriac: Spune ce vrei, dar să nu mă chemi la divorț, pentru că nu vin !" (in Romanian). Retrieved 9 March 2014.
  45. ^ "Victorie importantă pentru Brigitte, la divorțul de Ilie Năstase. Ce a scris în acte fostul jucător de tenis" (in Romanian). Retrieved 19 April 2020.
  46. ^ "Ilie Năstase plănuiește căsătoria religioasă cu Ioana Simion. „Vreau să fac nunta cât mai repede, să scăpăm de acest virus"" (in Romanian). Retrieved 19 April 2020.
  47. ^ "Sheen Only No. 2 on 'Living Sex Legends' List". 30 May 2006. Archived from the original on 17 September 2010. Retrieved 17 September 2010.
  48. ^ "Michael Palin meets Ilie Nastase " o'connors o'pinions". Retrieved 17 September 2010.
  49. ^ Alastair McKay (1 February 2006) Ilie Nastase, the Romanian George Best, based on an Interview with Ilie Năstase during the 2004 promotional tour for his autobiography.
  50. ^ "Wimbledon Diary: Nastase dictates his own style". Retrieved 3 July 2017.
  51. ^ "Ilie Nastase arrested twice in a day, accused of drunken driving". USA Today. Retrieved 25 May 2018.
  52. ^ "Tournament History". Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. Retrieved 20 February 2012.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit

Preceded by
World No. 1
23 August 1973 – 2 June 1974
Succeeded by
John Newcombe