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Guillermo Vilas
Vilas-1975.jpg
Guillermo Vilas during the Munich Open in May 1975
Country  Argentina
Residence Buenos Aires
Born 17 August 1952 (1952-08-17) (age 69)
Mar del Plata
Height 1.80 m (5 ft 11 in)
Turned pro 1969 (amateur tour from 1968)
Retired 1992
Plays Left-handed (one-handed backhand)
Prize money $4,923,882
Int. Tennis HOF 1991 (member page)
Singles
Career record 950–293 (76.43%)
Career titles 62 (10th in the Open Era)
Highest ranking No. 2 (30 April 1975)
Grand Slam Singles results
Australian Open W (1978, 1979)
French Open W (1977)
Wimbledon QF (1975, 1976)
US Open W (1977)
Other tournaments
Tour Finals W (1974)
WCT Finals F (1976)
Doubles
Career record 217–150
Career titles 16
Highest ranking No. 13 (21 May 1979)
Grand Slam Doubles results
Australian Open 2R (1977Jan)
French Open SF (1975)
Wimbledon 3R (1976)
US Open QF (1975)
Guillermo Vilas
Guillermo Vilas at the 1974 Dutch Open

Guillermo Vilas ( born 17 August 1952), also known as Willy Vilas, is an Argentine former professional tennis player, No. 1 of the Grand Prix seasons in 1974, 1975 and 1977, who won four Grand Slam tournaments, one year-end Masters, nine Grand Prix Super Series titles and 62 total ATP titles. World Tennis, Agence France-Presse and Livre d'or du tennis 1977 (Christian Collin-Bernard Ficot), among other rankings and publications, rated him as world No. 1 in 1977 (while others ranked Björn Borg or Jimmy Connors No. 1). In the ATP computer rankings, he peaked at No. 2 in April 1975, a position that he held for a total of 83 weeks. He was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1991, two years after his first retirement.

Known for his prolific match play, especially on clay, he became the second man to win more than 900 matches in the Open Era, and his number of match-wins on clay (659) is by far the most of the era. His peak was the 1977 season during which he won two major titles (both on clay), had two long match win streaks of 46 all-surface and 53 on clay, and finished with an Open Era record of match wins. In 2016, The Daily Telegraph ranked him as the 3rd best male clay-court player of all time, behind Rafael Nadal and Björn Borg. In 2018, Steve Tignor for Tennis Magazine ranked him as the 16th greatest tennis player of the Open Era.

Historical and statistical studies presented in 2015 by Argentinian journalist Eduardo Puppo and Romanian mathematician Marian Ciulpan concluded that Vilas should have been No. 1 in the old ATP ranking system for seven weeks between 1975 and 1976. The ATP Tour and its chief executive at that time, Chris Kermode, although not refuting the data, decided not to officially recognize Vilas. The controversy is still in the legal stage. In October 2020, Netflix released a documentary film about the Vilas case titled "Guillermo Vilas: Settling the Score".

Career

Raised in the seaside resort of Mar del Plata, Vilas was a left-hander and played his first tour event in 1968. He was in the year-ending top ten from 1974 through 1982. He was a clay-court specialist but also played well on hard-court, grass, and carpet surfaces.

He won four Grand Slam titles: the 1977 French Open and the 1977 US Open (both played on clay) and the 1978 and 1979 Australian Open (both played on grass). He was also the runner-up at the French Open three times (1975, 1978, and 1982) and at the Australian Open once (January 1977).

In 1974, he won the year-end Masters Grand Prix title. In addition, he won seven Grand Prix Super Series titles (1975–80), the precursors to the current Masters 1000.

Best year

A left-handed baseliner, Vilas's best year on tour was 1977 when he won two of the four Grand Slam singles tournaments and 16 of the 31 Association of Tennis Professionals tournaments he entered. His playing record for 1977 was 130 wins against 15 losses. Not including the Masters year-end championship, he won 72 of his last 73 ATP matches in 1977. The highest point during this phenomenal run was winning the last US Open played at Forest Hills against Jimmy Connors 2–6, 6–3, 7–6(7–4), 6–0 in a match where Vilas surprised his American rival by attacking the net.

Winning streak

In 1977 he won seven consecutive titles after Wimbledon—Kitzbühel (clay), Washington (clay), Louisville (clay), South Orange (clay), Columbus (clay), US Open (clay) and Paris (clay)—and set up a 46-match all-surface winning streak. He also had a record 53-match winning streak on clay courts, which stood until surpassed by Rafael Nadal in 2006. Both his winning streaks were terminated in October 1977 by Ilie Năstase in the final of the Raquette d'Or tournament. In that best of five-set final, Vilas dropped the first two sets by 6–1, 7–5 and then retired in protest of Năstase's use of a spaghetti strung racquet (which was banned shortly after by the ITF). After that he won a further 28 matches in a row with titles at Tehran, Bogotá, Santiago, Buenos Aires (all on clay), and Johannesburg (hard). That run was ended in the Masters semi-finals by Björn Borg.

Retirement

Vilas retired from the ATP Tour in 1989 but still played on the ATP Challenger Series until 1992. He was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1991. Vilas was in the stands at Flushing Meadows to cheer on his countryman, Juan Martín del Potro, who beat Roger Federer in an upset in the 2009 US Open final.

Distinctions

  • Won the Grand Prix circuit in 1974, 1975, and 1977.
Vilas abierto ba 1977
Vilas after winning the Buenos Aires Open and securing the first place in the 1977 Grand Prix Circuit.
  • World Tennis Magazine, France Presse, Michel Sutter and Christian Quidet, among others, ranked him as No. 1 Tennis Player of the Year in 1977.
  • Held the Open Era male record for the longest winning streak on clay courts at 53 matches, set in 1977, until it was bettered by Rafael Nadal in 2006. Nadal later extended this to 81 matches.
  • Won 62 ATP singles titles (eighth highest during the Open Era) and was the runner-up in 40 singles tournaments (plus two unfinished finals). Won 16 doubles titles with other 10 doubles finals.
  • He took Argentina to its first-ever Davis Cup final in 1981 (lost to the United States), together with José Luis Clerc, who was also a top-ten player. The Argentine press often referred to the tensions between the two of them, which even reverberated to the 2004 French Open awards ceremony, in which Vilas presented Gastón Gaudio with his trophy over Clerc's objections.
  • Vilas's success on the court led to a surge in popularity of tennis in Argentina and throughout Latin America. Guillermo Cañas and Guillermo Coria were named after him.
  • In 2005, TENNIS Magazine put Vilas in 24th place (15th male) in its list of the 40 Greatest Players of the Tennis Open Era, men and women included.

Career statistics

Singles performance timeline

Key
W  F  SF QF #R RR Q# A NH
(W) Won; (F) finalist; (SF) semifinalist; (QF) quarterfinalist; (#R) rounds 4, 3, 2, 1; (RR) round-robin stage; (Q#) qualification round; (A) absent; (NH) not held. SR=strike rate (events won/competed)
Tournament 1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 SR W–L
Grand Slam tournaments
Australian Open A A A A A A A F A W W SF 3R A A A A NH A A A 2 / 5 23–3
French Open A A 3R 3R 3R F QF W F QF QF 4R F QF 1R 2R QF 2R 2R 1R 1 / 18 56–17
Wimbledon 1R A 1R A 3R QF QF 3R 3R 2R A 1R A 1R A A 1R A A A 0 / 11 15–11
US Open A A 2R 1R 4R SF SF W 4R 4R 4R 4R SF 3R 3R 2R 1R A A A 1 / 15 43–14
Win–Loss 0–1 0–0 3–3 2–2 7–3 15–3 13–3 21–2 17–3 14–3 10–3 8–4 11–2 6–3 2–2 2–2 4–3 1–1 1–1 0–1 4 / 49 137–45
Year-end ranking 31 5 2 6 2 3 6 5 6 4 11 28 39 22 71 126 408
Year-end championship
Masters A A A A W SF SF SF A RR RR RR SF A A A A A A A 1 / 8 16–11

Grand Slam finals

Singles: 8 (4 titles, 4 runner-ups)

Vila rolandgarros 1977
Vilas celebrating his win at the 1977 French Open.
Result Year Championship Surface Opponent Score
Loss 1975 French Open Clay Sweden Björn Borg 2–6, 3–6, 4–6
Loss 1977 Australian Open Grass United States Roscoe Tanner 3–6, 3–6, 3–6
Win 1977 French Open Clay United States Brian Gottfried 6–0, 6–3, 6–0
Win 1977 US Open Clay United States Jimmy Connors 2–6, 6–3, 7–6(7–4), 6–0
Loss 1978 French Open (2) Clay Sweden Björn Borg 1–6, 1–6, 3–6
Win 1978 Australian Open Grass Australia John Marks 6–4, 6–4, 3–6, 6–3
Win 1979 Australian Open (2) Grass United States John Sadri 7–6(7–4), 6–3, 6–2
Loss 1982 French Open (3) Clay Sweden Mats Wilander 6–1, 6–7(6–8), 0–6, 4–6

Records

  • These records were attained in Open Era of tennis.
  • ^ Denotes consecutive streak.
Event Years Record accomplished Player tied
US Open 1977 72.1% (106–41) games winning % in 1 tournament Stands alone
Grand Prix Tour 1977 16 titles in 1 season Stands alone
Grand Prix Tour 22 finals reached in 1 season Stands alone
Grand Prix Tour 14 clay-court titles in 1 season Stands alone
Grand Prix Tour 120 outdoor match-wins in 1 season Stands alone
Grand Prix Tour 15 outdoor titles in 1 season Stands alone
Grand Prix Tour 145 match-wins in 1 season Stands alone
Grand Prix Tour 1973–88 632 clay-court match-wins Stands alone
ATP Buenos Aires 1973–82 8 singles titles Stands alone
1973–77 6 consecutive titles Stands alone
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