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A hugely entertaining autobiography,
This review is from: Mr Nastase: The Autobiography (Hardcover)
I remember watching TV in the seventies, seeing Ilie Nastase's matches at Wimbledon. Ilie was definitely one of the most interesting players to watch, as we never knew what he was going to do next. Reading his autobiography, it is clear that even Ilie never knew either. He played tennis for the pure enjoyment of it and wasn't that bothered about the money, so sometimes he got angry on court while at other times he laughed and joked.
In this book, Ilie tells us about some of the disputes he had with officials, admitting that he was sometimes at fault but not always, especially pointing to two episodes where umpires were blamed. In a match where Ilie's opponent was John McEnroe, the umpire was changed during the match because the first umpire had clearly lost control. Ilie also discusses some of his matches against Stan Smith, Jimmy Connors (with whom he won some top doubles titles), Bjorn Borg, Vitas Gerulaitis, Arthur Ashe and others. Perhaps the funniest on-court incident concerns a black cat. Ilie knew that one of his opponents in a forthcoming doubles match was very superstitious about black cats and smuggled a black cat onto court concealed in his tennis bag, releasing the cat early in the match, which he and his partner won very easily.
The book is by no means limited to Ilie's career as a tennis player as it also covers his childhood, his womanizing, his three marriages, his four children (two of them adopted), his attempt to become mayor of Bucharest (which he looked certain to win at one stage but ultimately lost narrowly) and so much more. Ilie was particularly shocked by the deaths of Vitas Gerulaitis (from gas poisoning caused by a faulty heating system) and Arthur Ashe (from AIDS caused by infected blood).
Ilie also reflects on the way that tennis has changed in the last thirty years and has no desire to see the changes reversed, least of all a return to wooden rackets. He also comments on the lack of British tennis success, contrasting the plentiful tennis facilities in Britain with the scarcity of such facilities in his country, Romania. Ilie believes (as I do) that the lack of British tennis success may be due to lack of belief or lack of commitment although he suggested that Tim Henman still had a chance to win Wimbledon. He wrote this in 2004, long after I'd given up any such hope. Even with the subsequent emergence of Andy Murray, Brits may still have a long wait yet before they see a British Wimbledon champion, as grass is probably not his best surface.
Ilie Nastase was quite a character in his playing days and, thankfully, still is. It shows in his autobiography.