Until three days ago I had no idea that Romanian ex-tennis star Ilie “Nasty” Nastase wrote novels. But I was walking around Valletta, the capital city of Malta and found myself in a small used book store. I like those kind of places partly due to the old-book-smell, but also because I genuinely love books and I’m dabbling in writing them myself too (third novel is taking LONG however, which might be a sign that I find writing about tennis more enjoyable than fiction?). I didn’t think I would find anything interesting in store and I already have a decent “to-read-list”, but then my eyes fell on two novels with the name of Nastase on the side of the book.
They look like this:
I only later found out that they are two editions of the same story, but it turns out Nastase also wrote another novel, called “The Net”, but that seems even harder to find than Break Point / Tie-Break. There is also an autobiography of Ilie Nastase, which I own and recommend. Some tennis books are boring even for a hard-core fan (Pete Sampras “A Champion’s Mind“ was a bit of a snooze, while Agassi shone in “Open”) but that one had some personality to it.
Let’s see what Nastase can bring to the table in the form of a novel…
A REVIEW OF BREAK POINT (NOT MINE)
I have yet to read the book yet so will have to give you the review from Sun Sentinel in 1986 about Break Point / Tie-Break:
Nastase Aces Novel Of Tennis Break Point.
By Ilie Nastase. St. Martin`s Press. $15.95.
BOOKS – Jim Sarni covers tennis for the News/Sun-Sentinel.
August 24, 1986
By JIM SARNI, Staff Writer
The first line of the novel reads:
“He drove with his left hand, pivoting the big car smoothly southwest, through the streets of Paris, while the other wandered languorously over the girl`s thigh.”
The author is:
a) Harold Robbins
b) Jackie Collins
c) Sidney Sheldon
d) Ilie Nastase
Nastase Ilie Nastase? The clown prince of tennis?
Yup. “Nasty,“ in the twilight of his extraordinary tennis career, is now writing trashy novels. And his pen is almost as sharp as his racket.
Break Point is a murder mystery set against the background of the men`s international tennis circuit Nastase knows so well. It is a fast-paced tale of intrigue and romance, sex, drugs and money — perfect for a weekend by the pool with some wine coolers and the U.S. Open on your Watchman.
Nastase, 40, the player-coach for the Miami Beach Breakers of the Domino`s Pizza TeamTennis League, originally wrote the book in French, under the title Tiebreak. It was translated into an English edition and released in Great Britain in May, and it has now been “Americanized“ for its U.S. release.
This may be one time when the translation is superior to the original. The story is unbelievable but fun, especially for the tennis fan trying to identify the characters.
Nastase is in the book as Milovan Tigrid, a fiery and playful Yugoslav, who was once the best player in the world. Tigrid doesn`t win any of the Grand Slam tournaments, but he doesn`t go to bed lonely, either.
Koras Belynkas, the star of the circuit, is modeled after Vitas Gerulaitis, one of Nastase`s buddies. He is the pivotal character in the book.
Jimmy Connors is Davey Cooper, a young American whose mother follows him around the circuit and has “kept her 24-year-old son at the same age — 13 1/ 2 — for the last decade.“
Not every tennis player in the book is based on a real athlete. Nastase created some players to keep the reader honest.
The best characters in Break Point are found off the court. For example, there`s Princess Athena von Heidelberg, a well-traveled groupie (she just happens to be royalty) who is caught in the snare of Abdul Saadi, a wealthy Arab oil sheik (naturally, groupie princesses always fall for those sheiks) who is trying to take over the tennis world. Jaclyn Smith could play the princess in the miniseries.
Throw in a New York mobster, a French inspector, a hit man, an albino prostitute and an American private eye named Mike Malone, and you get a dazzling tabloid of Nastase`s vivid imagination.
Mike tries his best to solve the murders, but this would be a tough case even for Angela Lansbury and her crack TV writers.
Victim No. 1 drops dead of a heart attack in the semifinals of the French Open. He made the mistake of mixing anxiety pills with aphrodisiac drops. He also made the mistake of flirting with Athena.
Victim No. 2, a semifinalist at Wimbledon, is killed by a shotgun as he steps out of the shower the morning of the match.
Needless to say, the semifinalists at the U.S. Open are a little tense.
By the time everyone reaches Flushing Meadow, the story has gotten out of control — like Nastase on the court — but that`s part of the fun of a novel that is nasty but also nice. Nastase is a sucker for happy endings.
Rita Mae Brown, Martina Navratilova`s ex-lover, tried to write an insider`s tennis novel but failed miserably with Sudden Death. Nastase has done it — in two languages.