Tennis Prose



Vilas Film On Netflix

It’s one of the best tennis films I ever saw, among the elite pantheon of cinematic tennis masterpices – Love Means Zero, French Open 1981, The Journeyman.

Vilas, now showing on Netflix is a fascinating tale about the illustrious career of Guillermo Vilas and the quest of his friend/journalist Eduardo Puppo to alter ATP history and credit Vilas with the belated honor of recognition of the world no. 1 ranking which so many tennis world figures believe he was cheated out of, including Roger Federer, Bjorn Borg, Boris Becker and Mats Wilander.

In 1977, Vilas won two majors (Roland Garros, US Open) and was finalist in Australia, while Connors did not win a major (two finals) and Borg only won Wimbledon, yet somehow the ATP calculated Connors as the year-end world no. 1 that year. To add insult to injury, according to the ATP media guide, in 1977 Vilas won 15 ATP titles in 1977, Borg won 11, Connors won 8.

How it could be calculated that Connors was the year-end no. 1 in 1977 defies logic and even surface statistical evidence.

The film uncovers the injustice, Puppo initially attempted to prove it on his own but ended up in frustration collecting all the old data, draws, etc. He and his wife later enlisted a mathmetician from Romania who was more suited to handle the painstaking endeavor and he too concluded the obvious – Vilas was actually no. 1 for 1977 and also part of 1975.

The ATP has refused multiple challenges by the Vilas team and the vast collection of evidence presented in book form, so it still stands that Vilas will not be given the honor of being called world no. 1 which Mats Wilander feels carries more prestige and honor than winning a Grand Slam title, “it’s heavier.”

The movie features an abundance of old film footage and interviews with Vilas and other tennis figures, and some personal insights of how Vilas sacrificed everything for tennis, he even wrote diaries and talked to his tape recorders. One journal even revealed that he called himself his own friend, which indicates how focused and consumed he was with his tennis. His father says that his son was a “slave to tennis.”

The parents of Vilas wanted him to be a lawyer and repeat their typical lives but Guillermo fell in love with tennis and knew that was his passion and destiny to be free. His parents did not believe tennis would be feasible endeavor or career and enlisted friends to talk him out of it but those efforts were futile. Vilas had an extraordinary love to play tennis and the physical pursuit/obsession for excellence and even perfection.

Vilas won Masters as an unknown and his career began to roll from there. He then hired Ion Tiriac as his coach and manager and followed everything the Romanian dictated and suggested. Vilas thrived and became one of the best players in the world, if not the very best. He won his first major at Roland Garros vs Brian Gottfried in 1977.

Borg is a central figure in the film, the two genuinely liked each other and did spend a lot of time in each other’s company on and off court, Borg even talked about how each loved yogurts and each consumed 20 different yogurts in their hotel room.

Puppo is the second star of the film. It was his friendship and determination which is the impetus for the film itself. Puppo said Vilas called him “a miracle in his life” which moved the journalist to tears just talking about it. Vilas also later gave everything from his career, mementos, artifacts, trophies, racquets, journals, clothing, shoes, EVERYTHING for Puppo to curate, hold on to and eventually share with the public. Surely a museum of Vilas will be built at some point.

There are so many highlight moments in the film I don’t know where to start to discuss. Maybe I should not – and let you the viewer enjoy them all when you watch the film. If you don’t watch Vilas, let me just say it will be one of the most egregious unforced errors of your tennis career. The movie is THAT good.

The only disappointment of the film is that the ATP refuses to budge on it’s mistake of denying Vilas the world no. 1 ranking. In 1977 he won two majors and finaled in a third, and won 15 titles. Connors, who finished no. 1, won zero majors (two finals) and won 8 titles. Justice is a paramount attribute in the world today and it would be most honorable for the ATP to correct this injustice now.

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1 comment

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 19, 2020 at 10:55 am

    If there is one complaint it’s having to read the subtitles in Spanish while old film video footage is on the screen, so you miss some of seeing Vilas in action on court, training, other activities. Gonna have to watch again )



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