I had always wanted to meet Romanian tennis legend Ilie Nastase and naturally collect his autograph. An opportunity presented itself at this year’s ATP World Tour Finals in London’s 02 Arena last month. Nicknamed ‘Nasty’, he was anything but, in fact he was one of the nicest sportsmen I have met. Ilie was a special guest of the ATP at this year’s event and as a four-time winner they had named a singles pool after him.
One of the most naturally gifted players in the history of the sport and known as a ‘tennis magician’ because of his ‘racket sorcery’, he was also renowned for his ability to entertain. “l had a reputation for misbehaving on court, but I did it with humour and a smile.” he said. Ilie was one of the dominate players of the 1970’s rising to Number 1 in 1973.
He is one of only five players to have won more than 100 ATP professional titles including the French and US singles crowns and reached the Wimbledon final twice, losing to Stan Smith in a tight five-setter in 1972 (a match he considers his finest) and Bjorn Borg in 1976.
My two-pronged mission was to continue the arduous task of getting my World #1’s book graphed and if possible a sketch. I drew this one quickly and was going to do another with a bit more effort but ran out of time. Besides it had a ‘free energy’ about the lines which seemed appropriate given the subject. As a veteran of this annual year-ending event I knew the right spot to position myself and when he arrived on the final Saturday with his daughters he took the time to complete my mission… with humour and a smile.