Jimmy Connors and Ilie Nastase once got into a fight in the middle of a match at Caesar's Palace in 1977.
The two were great rivals during their playing days but were also close friends off the court. However, there were a few noteworthy fiery moments between them.
In an article about Connors for Sports Illustrated in 1978, noted sportswriter Frank Deford mentioned an incident from 1976 when the American hurled several insults at Ilie Nastase during their TV Challenge match that year.
In 1977, the two locked horns at Caesar's Palace, a venue Connors had not lost across a dozen outings. It was the final of the World Championship Tennis Challenge Cup and the American was abusing Nastase. At this point, the Romanian stopped Connors and told him to get his mother, who was his coach from childhood.
"You don't want to fight. Go get your mother," Nastase said.
Speaking about the incident, the Romanian said:
"Hey, don't get Gloria mad at me."
It wasn't the first time Nastase spoke about Connors' mother. The Romanian once told him that he would be very different without his mother around all the time.
"Wouldn't you be different with your mother around all the time. I don't mean better or worse, I just mean very different," he remarked.
Nastase eventually won the match 3‐6, 7‐6, 6‐4, 7‐5 and pocketed $100,000 while handing Connors his first defeat at Caesar's Palace.
Despite their argument in Las Vegas, the two remain friends. In fact, the eight-time Grand Slam champion wrote in his memoir (The Outsider) that he always tried to watch Nastase's matches whenever he could. He also hailed the Romanian's ability to pull off shots that others couldn't.
"I always tried to watch Nasty's matches whenever I could. His ability to make shots that were beyond everyone else was amazing," he wrote.
Jimmy Connors and Ilie Nastase went head-to-head 27 times
Jimmy Connors and Ilie Nastase forged a fierce rivalry during the 1970s and locked horns on 27 occasions, with the latter leading the head-to-head 15-12.
They faced each other only twice in Grand Slams — the quarterfinals of the 1972 Wimbledon Championships and the fourth round of the 1982 US Open. While the Romanian came out on top in London, the American emerged victorious in New York.
Their last meeting came during the Davis Cup tie between the United States and Romania, where Connors won 6-4, 6-4.