Apr/20

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Biofile: Guillermo Vilas Interview

I did this Biofile interview with Vilas at US Open in 2005. It’s on page 107 in my “Facing Guillermo Vilas” book which is available at amazon for $9.99


The BIOFILE Guillermo Vilas

By Scoop Malinowski Status: Hall of Fame tennis great.

Born On: August 17, 1952   In: Mar del Plata, Argentina

Childhood Heroes: “Rod Laver, Neale Fraser, Lew Hoad, Ken Rosewall, also Tony Trabert.”

Hobbies/Interests: “I like to write, music.”

Nickname: Young Bull of the Pampas.

Childhood Dream(s): “I wanted to be able to support myself and have a family. I never had big dreams – oh, I want to go to the moon –  I always had possible dreams. When I was very small, I wanted to do everything, play everything. When I found out about tennis, then tennis I start dreaming, yes. I wanted to be a tennis player. Be able to travel around the world. And do that for the rest of my life. That was my dream.”

Favorite Movies: “I have plenty. As Good As It Gets is one that really moved me. And Easy Rider, also. Ghandi also impressed me a lot.”

Musical Tastes: “I like alternative rock ‘n roll. That’s my favorite. Pearl Jam. I like Nick Cave. I just follow a lot of groups. Radio Head. The thing is, they change sometimes, to something I don’t like. I like alternative, until it becomes mainstream. So whatever is alternative that I like, I take. Then if it takes a turn I don’t like, I always find something else. It’s not that I have deception – or anything like that – I’m not that kind of guy – I just take the best of everyone and the rest I just forget, if I don’t want it.”

Favorite Meal: “Something I really like…I have to think about this…I’m always adapting…but Thai food is my favorite.”

Favorite Ice Cream Flavor: “I like caramel dolce de leche.”

Early Tennis Memory: “First time I saw a tennis match (age 7). My father took me. That’s when I decided to play this. I said, What is this? My father said, It’s tennis. I said, This is what I like. He said, Why? Because there is a winner, because there is no limit of time, because people respect each other, and it’s a gentleman’s game.”

Pre-Match Feeling: “I think every player has their own. I am very precise in everything that I do. So I know when I have to get that feeling. I know the kind of feeling. But that’s something that’s personal. I don’t like to tell you how I achieve it or I don’t think – ever – anybody would tell you their secrets, those kind of secrets [smiles].”

Greatest Sports Moment: “When I won the U.S. Open. I think when I won the French Open. Because that give me to be the best player (in the world) that year (1977). So without one of those two – when I won the French Open it was amazing. But then you get into a bracket that you’re one. First you want to break from the bracket that you are in. So you win a Grand Slam, wow, passed all those guys. But then you are in a bigger field with more pressure. And so when I won the French Open and the U.S. Open in the same year, that was a big thing. I always put it together.”

Most Painful Moment: “When I knew that I could not compete anymore on the main circuit. When I realized. Because you try and maybe you’re not winning, but you don’t realize it. When you realize it and you say, Okay, I have to quit, that’s painful. (Do you remember what year that was?) I think it was either ’86, ’87, ’88…I don’t remember. I have no idea.”

Funny Tennis Memory: “Something that made me laugh…there was always some situations – not when he was funny – but some situations that Nastase found himself in. Not precisely the jokes and all that – that everybody knows – but the miscalculations, the things – because I know him pretty well. And I know how he thinks. And I know he found himself in some very unexpected situations. It was funny because it was exactly the opposite of I knew he wanted to do. But he found himself in some amazing situations. Boarding the plane, many things. He’s a very funny man, but not the way people think. His normal life – he prepares certain things. And this come the other way. And his reactions to that – completely different from any other human being. So it’s very funny to be with him. One time (on the Marlboro Circuit in the Caribbean – Caracas, Venezuela), he lost his passport six times in one hour. And I know why – he was very nervous about certain things and was losing the passport. It was very funny to see his reactions were completely afraid, …And if I find this passport, I will never do this. And then he would do that. And that was a fantastic scene. And many other scenes that I had with him that were fantastic. He had a great relation with the people.”

Closest Tennis Friends: “Borg. I’m good friends with almost everyone…Borg, Connors, McEnroe, Stan Smith. It’s not that we go to dinner all the time. But when we see (each other), we sit and talk and we tell jokes and all that. Tennis players – we’re traveling all the time, so we don’t see each other so much. It’s not like we plan a normal life like everyone else. But when we see, it was like yesterday we laughed.”

Funniest Player(s): “I like Mansour Bahrami. From all the players, the best sense of humor was Vitas Gerulaitis. He was a very nice, fantastic man.”

Toughest Competitors: “Borg and Connors were very different. McEnroe. Lendl. Because I crossed many generations. The ones I had the trouble with in the beginning was the two greatest competitors – Borg and Connors. And then McEnroe was fantastic too. Complicated [smiles].”

Favorite Players To Watch: “I like to see Hewitt. Because he fights. He’s there all the time. And great game. I like Roddick also to see. He’s explosive, he’s young, I like that. Gaudio was fantastic at the French Open. Coria’s a very good player. Nalbandian’s a very good player to see. Federer is fantastic now. He’s really changed in the last two years. Ferrero. I like all the guys. I’m friends with them also.”

Most Treasured Tennis Possession: “I have a book signed by Tilden. I bought it in London five years ago. I learn from that book. Also, my mother gave me a rattle…my first rattle was a racquet. Actually, it’s in the Roland Garros museum. So, those two things…and the other thing I like very much – I lost the finals of Baltimore. I lost to Brian Gottfried. And I kept that (finalist) cup. It’s the only cup that I have in my house. Because I decided to change all my life and win. I lost a match I should have won. But I lost, without any doubt. And then I said I have to change everything in my life. That was the turning point of my career (1977).”

People Qualities Most Admired: “I like that they’re honest.”

Career Accomplishments: French Open champion 1977; U.S. Open champ 1977; Australian Open champ 1978 and 1979. Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1991; dominated tennis in 1977 – winning 17 of 33 tournaments (which tied Rod Laver’s record, his 1977 record was 145 match wins against 14 losses); 45-10 record in Davis Cup singles matches.

Artwork by Sarasota, FL based artist Karin Billings www.karinbillings.com

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