By definition, the word character can describe a person’s peculiarities and eccentricities, which in many aspects aptly summarizes Ion Ţiriac. The man known as Count Dracula (because he was born in Transylvania, Romania), played the part to perfection. From his bushy Fu Manchu moustache to a piercing stare that seemingly brought gloom and doom to any space he entered, Ţiriac was an intriguing and unique “character” in tennis, melding a substantial career as a player, coach and businessman. In early December 2014, Romania-Insider.com reported that Ţiriac had amassed a personal fortune of $2 billion, making him the richest former sportsman in the world, according to Celebrity NetWorth. Not bad for a doubles specialist who made a few million dollars on tour during the 1960s and 1970s, but whose style on and off the court led to celebrity appeal.
Rewind back to the late 1980s, when Miller Lite was flooding the television airways, employing athletes for its “Taste Great, Less Filling” beer pitch. One 1987 commercial pitted baseball’s Bob Uecker with Ţiriac. While Uecker praises Ţiriac's sense of humor, the Romanian sits stone-faced and unamused. In 1992, Arthur Ashe told People Magazine: "We were at a Basque restaurant in Paris," Ashe recalled, “and Ţiri ate a wine glass. He ate glass. I was there. And he didn't bleed."
On tour, Ţiriac played 11 years, teaming with fellow Romanian Ilie Năstase to win the 1970 French Open Doubles Championship over the American duo of Arthur Ashe and Charlie Pasarell 6–2, 6–4, 6–3. All but one of Ţiriac’s championships came in doubles, 22 in total, all with Năstase or Argentinian Guillermo Vilas. He earned one singles title, the 1970 Bavarian International Tennis Championships in Munich, Germany, besting Yugoslavian Nikola Pilić 2–6, 9–7, 6–3, 6–4. On two occasions, 1967 and 1972, Ţiriac advanced to Wimbledon’s fourth round. In 1968, he reached the quarterfinals of the French Open singles, snatching two sets from Rod Laver in a five-set loss. Recalling the 1968 season, one of his best on tour, Ţiriac told the Tennis Channel, “We always say that clay is for tennis, grass is for cows and hard courts are for cars. We used to play 99 percent of the time on clay. I never had any talent, but I was a good athlete with good legs and a little bit of a head for the game. And for that reason I could almost beat anybody or lose to anybody.”
Ţiriac was a gifted athlete who played tennis and ice hockey from 1964 to 1972. He was a member of the 1964 Romanian Olympic ice hockey team that competed in Innsbruck, Austria. He was a staple of Romania's Davis Cup Team, competing for 15 years, and helping the squad advance to the finals three times.
As a sought-after coach, Ţiriac mentored some of the game’s all-time best, including, Năstase, Guillermo Villas, Henri Leconte, Boris Becker, Mary Joe Fernández, Anke Huber, and Goran Ivanišević. Under Ţiriac’s tutelage, Becker won five major titles.
Following his tennis career, Ţiriac turned his attention to business endeavors, serving as President of Ţiriac Holdings Lt. In 2007, Ţiriac became the first Romanian to enter Forbes' List of billionaires in the placing number 840 in the world. At the time, his wealth was estimated at $1 billion, escalating to $2 billion in 2014.
Ţiriac was a successful promoter and tournament director for numerous events including the ATP World Tour's season-ending Masters Grand Prix, and two of the largest Masters 1000 events, the Italian Open and the Madrid Masters. He is still an active leader and owner of the Mutua Madrid Open. Under his leadership the tournament has grown immensely, and is one of the most well-attended annual events in Spain. In addition, he continues to promote tennis in his home country of Romania and is the owner/promoter of the BRD Năstase Ţiriac Trophy, an ATP World Tour 250 event held annually in Bucharest.
Class of 2013
World No. 8 (1968)
Grand Slam Results
Winner of the 1970 French Open Men’s Doubles title
Member of the Romanian ice hockey team at the 1964 Innsbruck Olympic Games
Member of the Romanian Davis Cup Team 1959-1963, 1966-1972, 1974-1975, 1977
Overall Record: 70-39
Singles Record: 40-28
Doubles Record: 30-11
Contributions to Tennis
Director and promoter of the ATP World Tour's Masters Grand Prix, the Italian Open, and the Madrid Masters.
Owner of the Mutua Madrid Open
Owner/promoter of the BRD Năstase Tiriac Trophy
Coached Năstase, Guillermo Villas, Henri Leconte, Boris Becker, Mary Joe Fernández, Anke Huber and Goran Ivanišević
Managed Boris Becker
Australian Open: 2R (1977)
French Open: QF (1968)
Wimbledon: 4R (1967)
US Open: 3R (1973)
Australian Open: 2R (1977)
French Open: W (1970) (w/Ilie Năstase)
Wimbledon: SF (1970)