Ilie Nastase was a man of many gifts. One of the best tennis players in the world in the ’70s, he filled the court and his post-match press conferences with plenty of drama.
Nastase’s shotmaking and language on and off the court could be a little too showy for his own good. He won two major tournaments, but probably could have won many more had he been more disciplined and strategic rather than needing to be a constant source of entertainment for crowds and himself. He berated umpires and fellow players, including Arthur Ashe — one of the game’s greatest ambassadors — to the point where they sometimes left the court in tears.
Serena Williams, the greatest female player ever, and Johanna Konta, a star on the rise, deserved far better than the verbal shenanigans bestowed upon them last week by a now 70-year-old Nastase who must still fancy himself as an appealing Bad Boy.
Except there is nothing whatsoever appealing about him at this point, and making remarks that are so clearly out of bounds should be enough to have him permanently banned from any tennis stage henceforth. My hope is that Nastase will be removed from the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Just as he was disqualified from matches as a player, to my mind Nastase, with his recent racist remarks about Serena, her unborn child, and sexist comments about Serena’s peers, has disqualified himself from the honor of being included in a Hall of Fame.
It’s probably too much to expect, but what if Nastase himself offered to withdraw from the Hall of Fame? It would bespeak humiliation and decency that he rarely showed as an active player and be a legacy far more meaningful than any of his tournament wins.