His nickname was 'Nasty' Nastase - for good reason

22 April 2017 05:09

Ilie Nastase's insults have come so fast over the past three days it has been difficult to keep up.

Sexist on Thursday, racist on Friday. On Saturday he lost the plot entirely.

First the 70-year-old, Romania's Fed Cup captain for this weekend's tie with Great Britain, asked his counterpart Anne Keothavong for her room number.

Then he was heard to say of Serena Williams' baby, due in the autumn: ''Let's see what colour it has. Chocolate with milk?''

As if that was not enough, he then launched an extraordinary rant at a Press Association journalist for reporting his comments before turning his fire, when play began, on Keothavong and British star Johanna Konta.

He labelled the pair "f****** bitches" and then, as he was escorted from the venue having been sent off, had to be restrained by security staff as he tried to confront the same journalist as she filmed his ignominious exit.

He may have been the archetypal pantomime villain during his career, but there was nothing comedic about his latest outbursts.

A man renowned for being the first tennis bad boy, he showed his true colours. And it was not pleasant.

In his pomp, Nastase was a naturally gifted player on court. Famed for his extravagant lobs and and against-the-odds retrieves, he was the man who tore through the 1973 season, winning 17 tournaments, including the French Open without dropping a set, and finished the year ranked world number one.

He was also an entertainer and a joker who amused and infuriated the crowd with bizarre behaviour that saw him dubbed the 'Bucharest Buffoon'. There are stories of him playing at Wimbledon with an umbrella, strutting around court wearing a policeman's helmet and, on one occasion, telling a noisy crowd member to "shut up", only to discover it was the Duke of Kent.

And he was volatile, abrasive and obnoxious, a sulking scourge of riled rivals and unhappy umpires who racked up fines for fun.

'Nasty' Nastase they called him - and for good reason.

"As long as I can get angry, then I play well. If I play well, I can beat anybody. I am happy because I am getting angry," he said at the height of his career.

But for all his talent, a mental fragility and erratic temperament meant it was one that yielded only two grand slam singles titles, his first coming at the 1972 US Open.

He also won three grand slam doubles titles, reached the Wimbledon final twice in 1972 and 1976 - the first ended in a thrilling 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 7-5 loss to American Stan Smith which has gone down as one of the best Wimbledon finals - and led Romania to three Davis Cup finals. They lost all three to the United States.

And, renowned for his good looks, of course there were the women. Lots and lots of women, if you believe Nastase.

In his autobiography he claimed he had slept with 2,500 women, a boast which earned him sixth place in Maxim magazine's Top Ten Legends Of Sex, in between actor Jack Nicholson and singer Julio Iglesias.

The truth, he has since admitted, was considerably fewer.

"I like women. I love women. It is normal to love a woman," he told the Daily Mail in an interview in 2014.

"(But) it wasn't that many. It was exaggerated for my autobiography. They wanted a big number - to make it sell better."

Married four times, part of Nastase clearly still feels as irresistible as he did in his heyday, twice asking an uncomfortable Keothavong - married, pregnant and 37 years his junior - for her room number.

The reality, however, is he just showed himself to be a grey-haired old man hopelessly out of touch with his sport and the world as a whole.

Source: PA