Guillermo Vilas

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Guillermo Vilas
Guillermo Vilas during the Munich Open in May 1975
Country (sports) Argentina
ResidenceBuenos Aires
Born (1952-08-17) 17 August 1952 (age 71)
Mar del Plata
Height1.80 m (5 ft 11 in)
Turned pro1969[1] (amateur tour from 1968)
PlaysLeft-handed (one-handed backhand)
Prize money$4,923,882
Int. Tennis HoF1991 (member page)
Career record951–297 (76.2%)
Career titles62 (10th in the Open Era)
Highest rankingNo. 2 (30 April 1975)
Grand Slam singles results
Australian OpenW (1978, 1979)
French OpenW (1977)
WimbledonQF (1975, 1976)
US OpenW (1977)
Other tournaments
Tour FinalsW (1974)
WCT FinalsF (1976)
Career record217–150
Career titles16
Highest rankingNo. 13 (21 May 1979)
Grand Slam doubles results
Australian Open2R (1977Jan)
French OpenSF (1975)
Wimbledon3R (1976)
US OpenQF (1975)
Guillermo Vilas at the 1974 Dutch Open

Guillermo Vilas (born 17 August 1952) is an Argentine former professional tennis player. Vilas was the world No. 1 of the Grand Prix seasons in 1974, 1975 and 1977.[2] He won four major titles, the year-end championships, and 62 ATP titles overall. 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.[3][4][5] In the computerized ATP rankings, he peaked at No. 2 in April 1975, a position he held for a total of 83 weeks, although some have argued that Vilas should have been ranked No. 1 for at least 10 weeks, particularly in 1977 when he won 2 majors. He was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1991, two years after his first retirement.[6]

Vilas is known for his prowess on clay courts. He won over 650 matches on clay, which is an all-time record. His peak was the 1977 season during which he won 16 titles including two majors (both on clay) and had a 53 winning streak on clay, which was the longest in the Open Era at his time. In 2016, The Daily Telegraph ranked him as the 3rd best male clay-court player of all time, behind Rafael Nadal and Björn Borg.[7] In 2018, Steve Tignor for Tennis Magazine ranked him as the 16th greatest tennis player of the Open Era.[8]

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 and its chief executive at that time, Chris Kermode, although not refuting the data, decided not to officially recognize Vilas as No. 1. The controversy is still in the legal stage.[9] In October 2020, Netflix released a documentary film about Vilas' case titled Guillermo Vilas: Settling the Score.[10]


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 and 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[edit]

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.[11] 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 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.[12][13]

Winning streak[edit]

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).[14] 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.

ATP ranking No. 1 controversy[edit]

Even though he won 16 ATP singles titles, including the French Open and the US Open and was the runner-up at the January edition of the Australian Open in 1977, Vilas was never ranked by the ATP as world No. 1 during 1977 which was due to the fact that the rankings at the time were based on the average of a player's results.[15] He was instead year-end world No. 2, behind Jimmy Connors (who won the Masters and seven other titles and was the runner-up at Wimbledon and the US Open in 1977).[16] Nevertheless, Vilas was rated number one by World Tennis,[17] France Presse,[18] Tennis de France,[citation needed] Le Livre d'or du Tennis,[19] Gene Scott,[20] Peter Bodo,[21] Christian Quidet,[22] and Michael Sutter.[23] The International Tennis Hall of Fame inscription for Vilas stated "it was generally considered Vilas was the real No. 1 for 1977".[24] Vilas was also rated number one by Bud Collins and John Barrett by the 2010s.[25][26][27]

Argentine journalist Eduardo Puppo and Romanian mathematician Marian Ciulpan investigated the 1973–78 period records, and delivered a detailed report with more than 1,200 pages in which they came to the conclusion that Vilas should have been ranked No. 1 for five weeks in 1975 as well as during the first two weeks of 1976[28] and handed over their research to the ATP at the end of 2014. Although the study was not refuted, in May 2015 the ATP announced it had decided not to make official the No. 1 position for Vilas because it happened in the interval between the publications of the official rankings.[15][29]

In October 2020, Netflix released a documentary about the controversy titled Guillermo Vilas: Settling the Score.[30] It also covered (briefly) Evonne Goolagong's recognition as world no. 1 (for two weeks in 1976) retroactively by the WTA in 2007.[31]


Vilas retired from the ATP Tour in 1989 but still played on the ATP Challenger Series until 1992.[32] He was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1991.[12] 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.[33]


Vilas married Phiangphathu Khumueang from Thailand in 2005. They have three daughters and one son. They reside in Monaco. He is reportedly suffering from a form of dementia.[34]


Vilas after winning the Buenos Aires Open and securing the first place in the 1977 Grand Prix Circuit.
  • Won the Grand Prix circuit in 1974, 1975, and 1977.
  • 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) on its list of the 40 Greatest Players of the Tennis Open Era, men and women included.

Career statistics[edit]

Singles performance timeline[edit]

(W) winner; (F) finalist; (SF) semifinalist; (QF) quarterfinalist; (#R) rounds 4, 3, 2, 1; (RR) round-robin stage; (Q#) qualification round; (DNQ) did not qualify; (A) absent; (NH) not held; (SR) strike rate (events won / competed); (W–L) win–loss record.
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 A F A W W SF 3R A A A A NH A A A 2 / 5 23–3
French Open A A 3R[b] 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[c] A RR[c] RR[c] RR[c] SF[c] A A A A A A A 1 / 8 16–11

Grand Slam finals[edit]

Singles: 8 (4 titles, 4 runner-ups)[edit]

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 (Jan.) 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


  • 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[d] Stands alone


  1. ^ The Australian Open was played twice in 1977, in January and December. Vilas played only in the January event.
  2. ^ The 1972 French Open had two preliminary rounds.[35] After qualifying, Vilas won in both to enter the main draw. These wins do not count as main draw wins.
  3. ^ a b c d e The year-ending Masters tournament was played in January of the following year.
  4. ^ Tournament was played twice in 1977.


  1. ^ "Sports Network bio". Archived from the original on 23 February 2015. Retrieved 25 January 2015.
  2. ^ "Guillermo Vilas".
  3. ^ Sal Recchi (18 January 1978). "Who's No. 1? Let's draw straws". Boca Raton News. p. 1C – via Google News Archive.
  4. ^ "Masters não dicidiu quem é o primeiro tenista do mundo". Jornal do Brasil (in Portuguese). 11 January 1978. p. 27.
  5. ^ Le livre d'or du tennis 1977. Solar. January 1977 – via Amazon.
  6. ^ "Guillermo Vilas". International Tennis Hall of Fame.
  7. ^ Simon Briggs (20 May 2016). "Ahead of French Open 2017 Simon Briggs ranks the 20 male clay-court players of all time". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022.
  8. ^ "The 50 Greatest Players of the Open Era (M): No. 16, Guillermo Vilas".
  9. ^ Clarey, Christopher (26 May 2015). "Years Later for Guillermo Vilas, He's Still Not the One". The New York Times.
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Player Activity – Guillermo Vilas". ATP World Tour. 1977. Retrieved 26 May 2015.
  12. ^ a b "Guillermo Vilas". Hall of Famers. International Tennis Hall of Fame. 1991.
  13. ^ "Fantástico, Guillermo!". Sports Illustrated. Vol. 47, no. 12. 19 September 1977. pp. 12–17.
  14. ^ Dicker, Ron (30 August 2004). "With Few Exceptions, the String Remains the Same". The New York Times.
  15. ^ a b Clarey, Christopher (27 May 2015). "Years Later for Guillermo Vilas, He's Still Not the One". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 January 2016.
  16. ^ Perry, Douglas (27 May 2015). "Guillermo Vilas got robbed: Why the ATP made the wrong call about controversial No. 1 ranking". The Oregonian/ Retrieved 26 January 2016.
  17. ^ "World Tennis ranks Vilas number one". The Times (Shreveport). 11 January 1978. p. 12.
  18. ^ "Masters não decidiu quem é o primeiro tenista do mundo". Jornal do Brasil (in Portuguese). p. A-27.
  19. ^ "9782263001932: Le Livre d'or du tennis Tome 1977 : Le Livre d'or du tennis (Couleurs de france) - IberLibro - Aguet, I: 226300193X".
  20. ^ Eugene L. Scott (1979). Gros plan sur le tennis (in French). Paris: Librairie Larousse. p. 103. ISBN 2-03-512101-9. Guillermo Vilas is a real man of the Renaissance. In addition to being the best player in the world in 1977, ...
  21. ^ Peter Bodo: " ... He maxed out on the computer at No. 2, although back in those days some of the more subjective year-end rankings still carried significant weight. I voted for Vilas as the No. 1 player for 1977, and I believe that's where he ended up in our Tennis magazine rankings (at the time, those were highly regarded honors)..."
  22. ^ La fabuleuse histoire du Tennis (1984)
  23. ^ Sutter, Michel (2003). Vainqueurs 1946–2003 [Winners 1946–2003].
  24. ^ "Guillermo Vilas". International Tennis Hall of Fame.
  25. ^ "Exigen a la ATP que reconozca a Vilas como Nº 1 de 1977". Ámbito (in Spanish). 31 July 2013. Guillermo clearly deserved to be number one when he won Roland Garros and the US Open in 1977.
  26. ^ Bud Collins (27 January 2008). "Wily old campaigner". The Age. Although the world's best in 1977, Willie is a touch annoyed at the No. 2 ranking behind Connors, whom he beat in the US Open title bout.
  27. ^ Bud Collins "I thought he was the best player of that year. I wrote a story about him in Australia,for a Melbourne newspaper: Vilas says that if the computer at that time used the same system as today, he would be No. 1. But I do not know. Yes, he won two Grand Slam, Roland Garros ... maybe he was lucky Borg did not play ... the US Open had a winning streak of 50 games. I thought it was No. 1, but hey, it was pronounced No. 2" Archived 24 April 2021 at the Wayback Machine
  28. ^ Diego Amuy (26 May 2015). "Guillermo Vilas has been number one in the world". BATennis World. Archived from the original on 5 August 2017. Retrieved 22 June 2015.
  29. ^ "Guillermo Vilas got robbed: Why the ATP made the wrong call about controversial No. 1 ranking". 28 May 2015.
  30. ^ "Guillermo Vilas: Settling the Score | Netflix Official Site". Retrieved 21 September 2020.
  31. ^ Computer glitch denied Goolagong No. 1 WTA ranking in '76, Associated Press, ESPN Sports, 31 December 2007.
  32. ^ "Player activity – Guillermo Vilas". ATP World Tour. 1992. Retrieved 26 May 2015.
  33. ^ Howard Fendrich (1 January 2009). "Federer stunned by del Potro in US Open final". USTA. Archived from the original on 12 February 2017. Retrieved 22 September 2021.
  34. ^ "They have 4 children, they all play tennis and live in Monte Carlo – For You". Archysports. 29 May 2021. Retrieved 14 January 2022.
  35. ^ "1972 French Open draw". Retrieved 28 March 2019.

External links[edit]