A special case, a big one with details to remember. This Sunday, Ilie Nastase turns 74 and the best tennis player that Romania gave does so with many titles and feats in the trunk of memories. The fun and talented Bucharest player was a great champion and became the first to reach No. 1 in the ATP world ranking.
Nastase, who was born on July 19, 1946, stood out with a very colorful game in the ’70s, already in the era open to professionalism. The brilliant Romanian won 57 singles titles, including two Grand Slam titles, the US Open in 1972 and Roland Garros in 1973, plus 45 in the doubles event.
In 1973, precisely, on August 23, the ATP ranking was created and he gave himself the great pleasure of being the first man at the top of the ranking. He remained there until the beginning of June 1974, that is, 40 consecutive weeks, until he was displaced by the Australian John Newcombe. Today he is the 15th man with the longest time as king of the circuit.
In addition to the two aforementioned successes in the Majors, he agreed to two finals at Wimbledon, in 1972 and 1976. And it was key for Romanian tennis to enjoy its best years in the Davis Cup under his rule, accompanied by Ion Tiriac. Thus, Romania reached three Davis Cup finals: 1969, 1971 and 1972, all lost to the United States. The talented Nastase acted for 18 years in that team tournament.
A very special championship for Nastase was the End of Season Masters, the event that brings together the best of each year. There the Romanian climbed to five finals and gave himself the luxury of achieving four individual titles, when he won in 1971, 1972, 1973 and 1975.
Also in doubles the Romanian stood out, as he was the champion of three Grand Slam, Roland Garros 1970, Wimbledon 1973 and US Open 1975. And in the mixed double he was crowned at Wimbledon in 1970 and 1973. Therefore, he left a big mark on the world tennis.
In a special moment for South American and international tennis, in 1977, Nastase was in charge of cutting a historic streak by Argentina’s Guillermo Vilas, with 53 consecutive wins on the tour. He did it in Aix-en-Provence, with a controversy included, since he used a racket with a double string. Immediately afterwards, the International Federation decided to suspend this type of double strings, although the European had already managed to break with the undefeated albiceleste.
For a few years, Nastase refused to join the ATP, preferring to play a parallel tour organized by his manager Bill Riordan. He was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1991. In his autobiography, he told anecdotes of all kinds, such as experiences with women throughout his career. Undoubtedly, quite a character, outgoing and unique.
Already retired, he continued to delight the public with his quality and this was shown in countless exhibitions. Nastase is synonymous with tennis and synonymous with fun. A big one, without turns.