Back in the day, men's tennis was ruled for a time by big-mouthed boors who railed against the injustices and perceived slights inflicted by the tennis establishment. The irony, of course, is that these rebels without a clue rarely played by the rules of sportsmen-like behavior. Some of these tennis thugs have grown up, but 70-year-old Illie "Nasty" Nastase has not. He remains rude and offensive.
Last week, Serena Williams announced that she was 20 weeks pregnant and Nastase, aptly nicknamed "Nasty" and now the Romanian Federation Cup coach, decided to take a short break from hurling obscenities at opposing team's players and officials to make racist comments about Serena's pregnancy.
Nastase was once the number one ranked player in the world and was perhaps the most talented player ever, but unlike Roger Federer, the word "GOAT" is not an acronym for his greatness, but (with apologies to animal lovers), a description of his intellect.
I know many people who are nostalgic for the days when players were "colorful and exciting." They find Roger, Rafa, Novak and Andy boring, but I disagree. I say that your racket should do the talking on the tennis court, not your mouth and we live a golden age of great players and great sportsmen.
Illie Nastase is a holdover from a less evolved time. He is dinosaur, and we all know how that turned out.
Steve Kaplan is Owner of Bethpage Park Tennis Center, as well as Director of Lacoste Academy for New York City Parks Foundation. Steve has been the longtime coach of more than 600 nationally-ranked junior players, 16 State High School Champions, two NCAA Division 1 Singles Champions, and numerous touring professionals and prominent coaches. He may be reached by e-mail at StevenJKaplan@aol.com.