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Nastase, Vilas and Cooper in Tennis Hall of Fame

By MARTIN LADER UPI Sports Writer

NEW YORK -- Ilie Nastase, known as much for his temper tantrums as for his talent, and Guillermo Vilas, a moody poet, have been selected for induction into the Tennis Hall of Fame along with Australian Ashley Cooper.

Nastase and Vilas were among the world's dominant players during the 1970's, winning 118 professional singles titles between them. They also had contrasting personalities.

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'Guillermo and I were different, but we were very good friends,' Nastase said Tuesday by phone from his home in Paris. 'He's a poet, like Shakespeare, and I am different.'

For good reason, Nastase earned the nickname 'Nasty,' and it was an image he tried to uphold. The volatile Romanian engaged in what may have been the most riotous match ever staged at the U.S. Open when he played John McEnroe in a second-round contest in 1979.

This was a time when point penalties were new, and the night-time crowd at Flushing Meadow became ugly when chair umpire Frank Hammond started invoking the rule on Nastase for time violations. To establish peace, tournament director Bill Talbert finally ordered Fred Blanchard, the tournament referee, to replace Hammond in the chair.

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Nevertheless, reflecting the other side of Nastase, Hammond still considers him to be one of the nicest persons he has dealt with in tennis.

'That night I had over 50 calls come in because of the incident,' Hammond recalled. 'Nastase even called and he said, 'Moby (a nickname reflecting Hammond's weight), I make you famous.' His ex-wife Dominique called and said, 'You know he loves you.'

'The next day when I went out Nasty is in the umpire's chair throwing tennis balls at me. Most of the time with me he was a pussy cat, but pussy cats grow up.'

Nastase, now 44, insists he is a different man.

'I changed myself a little bit,' he said. 'I quit talking. When you start losing, you shut your mouth.'

Nastase doesn't even plan to celebrate his election to the Hall of Fame, at least not until the induction ceremony at the Newport Casino in Newport, R.I., July 13 during the Miller Lite Hall of Fame tennis championships.

'I'm on a diet now,' he said. 'I don't eat or drink too much.'

Vilas, 38, who received word of his induction at his home in Argentina, has had several collections of poetry published. He is a deep-thinking man who once said of his lonely youth, 'My friends were the trees, birds, bicycles and things like that.'

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Oddly, it was Vilas whom the tennis establishment chose to make an example of when he was suspended for a year and fined $20,000 in 1983 for accepting appearance money to play in a tournament in Rotterdam. Although the payment of guarantees was prohibited, the practice was widespread.

The suspension never was fully enforced.

Nastase was ranked in the world's top 10 from 1969-77, including a No. 1 ranking in 1973. He won 57 career singles titles, including the 1972 U.S. Open and 1973 French Open.

Vilas was the U.S. and French champion in 1977, and won the Australian Open in 1978 and 1979. He won 61 career titles.

Cooper won the Australian singles championships in 1957 and was singles champion at the Australian, Wimbledon and U.S. championships in 1958.

Hammond, the only man to umpire for all three, said Cooper was very easy to deal with.

'Cooper never would say a word if he disagreed,' Hammond said. 'He'd just look at you like a poodle dog in heat.'

The enshrinement of the new inductees will bring the number in the Hall of Fame to 154 since it was founded in 1954.

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