WHEN HE'S BAD, HE'S HORRID
For all-round boorishness, few athletes rival Ilie Nastase, the 30-year-old Romanian tennis player who again lived up to his nickname at Wimbledon last week.
On court No. 2 of the 100-year-old tournament, Nasty was just that in an unfairly gained victory over Andrew Pattison of Rhodesia, who for the first time in his career refused to shake his opponent's hand after the match.
Few blamed Pattison. The victim of officials' timidity in dealing with Nastase's churlishness, Pattison had taken the first two sets and led 4-3 off a service break in the fourth when Nastase began behaving like an unruly child—deliberately, one suspects.
During the court changeover which followed the service break, Nastase interrupted the match for 10 minutes. Arguing with the umpire and a linesman about a foot fault called against him and the number of linesmen assigned to the match, he ducked behind a canvas screen and led the crowd in cheers.
Play finally resumed after a referee's warning, but Nastase complained about the crowd noise and the condition of the grass. Pattison, evidently affected by the delay and by Nastase's prolonged protestations, sat down, got up, donned his sweater, took it off again and ultimately lost the set and match.
"I think he behaved abominably," Pattison said afterward. "He was breaking the rules of the game that play must be continuous and insulting and abusing the umpire and linesman. He did it at a very crucial time, when I was leading with a service break. It was no coincidence."
Nastase reportedly defended his tactics by saying, "I would do it every time if I knew I would win the match."
That much seems certain. And he has been able to get away with his unsportsmanlike conduct because, as a gate attraction and a star, he has intimidated officials. But Wimbledon doesn't have to put up with Nastase. It has stars aplenty and has sold out for years. Instead of merely warning Nastase, the referee should have used his authority under the rules to disqualify him.
OH, COME NOW