August 30, 1979: McEnroe, Nastase, disqualification, riots and police!

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August 30, 1979: McEnroe, Nastase, disqualification, riots and police!

On this day 39 years ago, Ilie Nastase and John McEnroe had played in the second round of the US Open, with the youngster prevailing 6-4 4-6 6-3 6-2. There was nothing strange in this result, with one of the world's most talented player and a New York native beating a former world number 1 who passed his prime but the match between these two could not have passed without incidents, and this time it included the police as well! Namely, John was serving in the fourth game of the fourth set (he was 2-1 up) when Nastase started arguing about one line call, sitting in the linesman’s chair and refusing to play, also pretending to sleep on the baseline, using his racket as a pillow! The chair umpire Frank Hammond asked him to continue a few times before he gave him a game penalty, sending McEnroe 3-1 in front.

Ilie went crazy and he started to yell some terrible words towards Hammond who was forced to default the Romanian, unaware that the spectators were against him and not Nastase. The crowd of 10,549 went mad as well, starting to throw paper cups and beer cans onto the court, turning the match into a real show.

The tournament referee Mike Blanchard had to come to the court and talk with both players and McEnroe had agreed to continue with play in order to avoid the riots that were about to begin in the stands among the irate spectators (the police had to react as well).

Bill Talbert, the tournament director had to be included as well, and he replaced Hammond with Blanchard, knowing that the initial referee would not be able to hold this kind of match under control. After an 18 minutes break, John won the last three games of the match to complete the victory at 12:35 am (he lost one point in the last two service games) and he and Ilie had a dinner together later like nothing happened! McEnroe would win the tournament and this was the only set he lost during the fortnight.

"Ladies and gentlemen, attention please, it will be impossible to continue the match unless we quiet down a bit," Blanchard said, bringing on new choruses of boos. "If we are not able . . . may I have your attention please .

. . Ladies and gentlemen, unless we have some quiet so the players can continue, this match will be discontinued until tomorrow."

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