Nastase - I'm a fan

Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by carpedm, Jan 8, 2013.

  1. carpedm

    carpedm New User

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2007
    Messages:
    91
    Each era has one or two players that are somehow a cut about the rest of the tour, that premiere talent that everyone feared. In the 90’s that guy was named Michael Stich ( and to a lesser extent Marcelo Rios ). In the millennium, it was Marat Safin. Someone told me back in the 50’s, it was Lew Hoad.

    This guy is a complete talent, gifted with many ways to finish a point and able to beat anyone player at any given moment. They also probably didn’t win as much as they should have; there’s a certain amount of tragedy with their career. But he’s also a player’s player, a guy that other people who really play the game want to watch. There’s beauty in their strokes and a fierceness with their play. And the granddaddy of them all was this nutty guy from Romania named Ilie Nastase.

    Although he only won a handful of slam titles, Nastase did win nearly 60 official tour titles and according wikipedia another 30-ish along the way. So he did win his fair share especially from the early 70’s when some slams meant less than some other titles on tour. He also sat number one in the ranking for a protracted amount of time and he was prolific in doubles. So can’t really cry for Ilie, his trophy case is sagging like the best of ‘em. And yet he still probably should’ve won more.

    But here’s a fun thing: I got my hands on McEnroe’s first professional tournament, the 1978 Forest Hills clay court event. He made it to the semifinals and lost to you know who. It was a bizarre experience seeing the two of them: Ilie in his veteran 30’s and Mac in his youthful teens. Both were not in their prime and yet you could see glimpses of greatness that once was or about to be.

    McEnroe had yet to develop his game. His strokes were about half of what they would be, he volley was not yet refined and his serve - that which would soon become the biggest weapon in tennis - had yet to invented. In many ways he was weapon-less and yet he was still McEnroe. He was smart. He was clever. And he had a burning need to win, you can see it early on.

    On the other side of the net was Nastase; speedy, with a Jedi-sense around the court and an ability to make any shot look easy. I can’t comment on who he was at his best, but you have to think if this is what they guy was like in end of his career, you have to think he was gangbusters in the middle. And you had to concede this was clearly the second half of Nastase’s career - Mac played him pretty tightly the first few times they had played previously and the fiery left-hander would not concede a match to the Romanian after that day. But Ilie beginning his twilight was still a sight to see.

    Firstly, Nastase was fast. Insanely fast. It wasn’t just that he could move to a spot quickly, he seemed to recognize where he needed to be instantly and then move to where he was needed in a flash. It’s a combination of footspeed and anticipation that belongs to people named Mecir, McEnroe and Federer. It’s mercurial. It’s without effort. And it’s a pleasure to see.

    His entire game is built on his movement around the court. It allows him to take make the shots that he can make. It allows him to hit hard or soft or with backwards spins because his legs allow him to cover spots his antics left open. Essentially, his speed allows him to be Nastase. After that, he hit the serve, the volley, the backhand, the forehand and the overhead about as well as anyone else. And he did it from all parts of the court in a complete game. Name a corner and I can tell you, Ilie was comfortable in it.

    But what of that x-factor? What of that unknown attunement with the tennis gods that allowed Nastase to see what he could see? Whatever it was, Ilie had it in spades. He possessed that sense that I have only seen in four other players - Rios when he paid attention, McEnroe particularly in 1984, Federer and Hingis when she was interested. Somehow they seemed to know where the ball was going seemingly before you even hit it off your racket. It’s beguiling.

    To see Nastase do it to McEnroe doing that Forest Hills match was downright backwards. There’s plenty of Youtube showing Mac in 84 carving up people before they even know they’re being carved, and here’s this cartoonish Iron-curtain relic picking the most deceptive player’s shots before they leave his strings. People can through Mac. Or they run him down. But what they don’t do it out-Mac him.

    So this Nastase guy, he was really something.
     
    #1
  2. Moose Malloy

    Moose Malloy Legend

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2005
    Messages:
    7,866
    That was not his first professional event, McEnroe was already ranked in the top 20 at the time of that match, July '78.
    He would finish that year #4. His first pro event was in '76.

    http://www.atpworldtour.com/Tennis/Players/Mc/J/John-Mcenroe.aspx?t=pa&y=1978&m=s&e=0#

    He seems to have made a big change in his service motion sometime from July '78 & Jan '79(when he won the Masters)
     
    #2
  3. carpedm

    carpedm New User

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2007
    Messages:
    91
    I hear ya, Malloy. That's what I thought too. But as I watched the match, Howard Cosell ( yes, he was commentating and he was orgasming over Nastase ) and John Newcombe mentioned this was his first match as a professional. It even said it on screen.

    I think McEnroe had been in other tournaments before, most likely as an amateur. They mentioned his year at Stanford and that he was only 18. I'm just quoting what they said.
     
    #3
  4. gavna

    gavna Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2010
    Messages:
    3,661
    You are right......I was a ballboy at that event and it was the WCT at Westside (we lived about 5 blocks away). JMac had just finished his year at Stanford and had not officially turned pro until that event - there was some talk he was going to return to Stanford (his mom was adamant he finish all 4 yrs) in the fall but after Wimby and the RG he decided to go pro. It was a huge deal as his mom was pretty pissed and made no secret in the press and to anyone around that she wanted him to stay amateur.
     
    #4
  5. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2007
    Messages:
    12,672
    Location:
    Bierlandt
    Don't forget Borg in this category. (Nastase himself was an admirer of Borg.)

    And yes, Nastase was a nut.
     
    #5
  6. Moose Malloy

    Moose Malloy Legend

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2005
    Messages:
    7,866
    Correct, it was his first match as a professional, but not his first professional event(which you said in the first post)

    McEnroe had played many pro events in the past year(reached the semis at '77 Wimbledon) Enough events to already be ranked in the top 20 at the time of this match. He was seeded 15 at the USO less than 2 months after this match.

    This was still early in the open era, amateurs doing well on tour was not that unusual(Pam Shriver would make the final of the USO that year as an amateur)

    Also being a great player at 18/19 wasn't that unusual either circa 1978.
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2013
    #6
  7. carpedm

    carpedm New User

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2007
    Messages:
    91
    Thanks for that insight and analysis, Malloy.

    Such a minute and semantic-challenged detail really helped to add to the tenure and thoughts of what I wrote earlier.

    :)
     
    #7
  8. carpedm

    carpedm New User

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2007
    Messages:
    91
    I think you're right about how fast Borg was. I think he and Gerulaitis were both faster than Nastase. Ilie's court coverage was more based on anticipation and opportunity, and less about all-out footspeed. Plus his stokes were more wristy and less complicated than the Swede's and less consistent or reliable than the American's.

    On a track, Nastase would probably come in third. But on a court, he'd cover the corners about as well as anyone.
     
    #8
  9. Frankc

    Frankc Semi-Pro

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2004
    Messages:
    446
    Also a Nastase fan

    carpedm,

    Oh so likewise here... once we got through the "battle of detail," we almost forgot the beauty of the object of the post.
    On the one hand, his antics and his darkest side were entertaining sometimes and most often ruinous for the game. Now, on the other, he was a gift from the tennis gods. Bodo's Inside Tennis , one glorious book about a glorious age in tennis, refers to Mr. Nastase as "the most graceful player in the men's game." Yep...

    Yes, I know the WTC Match with Mac - I marveled at the dynamics, likewise... beautiful to understand and wonder at...
    If you can , grab the '72 Masters match with Connors/Mr. Nastase. Nastase is on display in that match. He dinks/jerks Connors around - one wrong foot after another...
    When he is on, and is comfy enough to stay on, he reminds me of exactly what tennis is missing today...
     
    #9
  10. comeback

    comeback Professional

    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2010
    Messages:
    1,179
    He was tall and strong with massive hands, used almost one grip at all times..muscled his backhand passing shot but got it over into a difficult spot for a secondary pass..he had a great serve that set up the rest of his shots..he made drop shots, drop vollleys and overheads look easy.one of the few players who could make Laver look off balance ...just a pure talent for his time
     
    #10
  11. pc1

    pc1 Legend

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2008
    Messages:
    9,353
    Many people believe Nastase was the most gifted player of all time. He certainly had every shot and some shots not invented. Always thought that perhaps the most fun imaginary match I could see would be Nastase at his best against Federer on any surface.

    I will name a couple of others for anticipation and speed along with the ones you mentioned--Borg and Rosewall.
     
    #11
  12. carpedm

    carpedm New User

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2007
    Messages:
    91
    I agree with Borg. He had to have had great anticipation to be who he is. My only thought was if you saw the ball go to the corner, Bjorn would run it down and hit it with a 9 foot, looping stroke. It was just amazing how fast he was. But I always thought that Nastase, Mac, Hingis and Mecir had that ability to predict where the ball was going before it got to the corner because they made great gets and they weren't classical fast like Borg or Chang. Federer was always that fast. Or maybe I just mean these players always had great court position. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'm hyperbole.
     
    #12
  13. TomT

    TomT Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2012
    Messages:
    1,954
    Location:
    Fort Lauderdale, FL
    Nice OP carpedm. I'm a long time Nastase fan. Yeah, beguiling.
     
    #13
  14. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2007
    Messages:
    12,672
    Location:
    Bierlandt
    Here's a good snippet of Nastase playing somewhat seriously and great:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lf4wrrpzdYc

    Watch his court coverage at 0:50. Great get. And again 2:18-2:25.

    Take a look at his wristy forehand at 1:23. Good call.
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2013
    #14
  15. pc1

    pc1 Legend

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2008
    Messages:
    9,353
    There are some player who were great and there are some who were great and are geniuses. Nastase was the latter. He could pull off the most imaginative shots that you wouldn't even think of.

    I loved John Newcombe and he was a great player but he wasn't a genius of the court like Nastase.
     
    #15
  16. kiki

    kiki Banned

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2010
    Messages:
    18,715
    when Nastase was asked what was his secret he said he was a thief, he robbed his opponent´s strength and he robbed his concentration.Sometimes at his own expense.he was like a Romainan bandit, and that country has always praised its bandits...
     
    #16
  17. kiki

    kiki Banned

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2010
    Messages:
    18,715
    geez, you are certainly the GOAT of ball boys...I envy you.
     
    #17
  18. kiki

    kiki Banned

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2010
    Messages:
    18,715
    Not at all, if I had to describe the concept of anticipation, I´d pick Rosewall,Hingis,Nastase,Evert,Mc Enroe,Wilander and Mecir.Great choice from you.

    As for quickness, Laver,Borg,Kriek,Gerulaitis,Mandlikova,Graf and Federer come to my mind.and for a while, Navratilova and Goolagong, too.In any case,any all time great had above par footwork, though.
     
    #18
  19. carpedm

    carpedm New User

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2007
    Messages:
    91
    good points, kiki. to quote mary carillo, " with the exception of maybe becker, there's never been a slow number one."
     
    #19
  20. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2007
    Messages:
    12,672
    Location:
    Bierlandt
    ^^^ And Becker held that spot only for 3 weeks, then 9 weeks.
     
    #20
  21. pc1

    pc1 Legend

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2008
    Messages:
    9,353
    Perhaps Stan Smith, Ilie Nastase's great rival. Smith wasn't not that fast but long arms helped his range.
     
    #21
  22. kiki

    kiki Banned

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2010
    Messages:
    18,715
    Vilas and 1970´s Navratilova come to mind for not quick nº 1.
     
    #22
  23. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2007
    Messages:
    12,672
    Location:
    Bierlandt
    I believe that Vilas was never no. 1 (quick or not).
     
    #23
  24. kiki

    kiki Banned

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2010
    Messages:
    18,715
    Smith was not a great mover but he was not that bad, he was quite nimble for his size.
     
    #24
  25. Dan Lobb

    Dan Lobb Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2011
    Messages:
    1,963
    But Newk could peak at majors.
    Nastase's major record was disappointing, to put it mildly.
     
    #25
  26. pc1

    pc1 Legend

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2008
    Messages:
    9,353
    I agree with you.
     
    #26
  27. kiki

    kiki Banned

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2010
    Messages:
    18,715
    However, Nastase hold the Masters record for many many years.He suprassed himself in that great event.

    I think Nasty´s main sorrow, other than Wimbly would be the Davis Cup.The atmosphere of the 1972 final is one of the highest of any international team event.
     
    #27
  28. jean pierre

    jean pierre Semi-Pro

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2006
    Messages:
    786
    Vilas was never n°1 in ATP ranking, but was considered as the real n°1 in 1977.
     
    #28

Share This Page