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Guillermo Vilas and his struggle to be recognized as number one, in a documentary


Directed by Matías Gueilburt, it premieres on October 27 on Netflix. It is based on the investigation of sports journalist Eduardo Puppo. His personal diary, his charismatic speeches and his rockstar side.

10/26/2020 6:01 AM

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Updated 10/26/2020 6:01 AM

"Changing the past is irrational but, can anyone beat its history?", Shoots the documentary

Vilas: You will be what you should be or you will be nothing

, which premieres this Tuesday on Netflix and reveals the fight of Guillermo Vilas, the best Argentine tennis player of all time, to be recognized as number one in the world.

Before the big premiere, the director Matías Gueilburt and the sports journalist Eduardo Puppo chatted with


about this

production based on the investigation that Puppo carried out for more than 10 years against the Association of Professional Tennis Players (ATP)


With a first-person account from Vilas himself and

testimonies from Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Björn Borg and Gabriela Sabatini

, among others, and between temporal and geographical jumps, time travel, triumphs and claims, the documentary gets under the skin of the idol who revolutionized tennis in Argentina.

The truth is that

the filmmaker

who is

an expert in documentaries about Argentine icons such as Fontanarrosa, Maradona, El Che and Pope Francisco

, wanted to cross the borders of sport and go further: “I wanted to show the human being behind that monster that was seen in the court".

Guillermo Vilas marked an era of world tennis.

The Netflix documentary tries to be recognized as number one in the world.

“I wanted to show a more unknown, more intimate and reflective Vilas.

A Vilas who wrote in hotel rooms, very intelligent

, with an unknown view of the world.

We were not interested in showing interviews with Susana Giménez, but rather a more intimate part of the character ”, he says.

Guillermo Vilas broke the record for victories and tournaments won in a single season: 130 games and 16 titles in 1977,

a mark that still stands today


He conquered 62 ATP tournaments, including the 1974 Masters and four Grand Slam: Roland Garros (1977), the United States Open (1977) and the Australian Open (1978 and 1979).

But although he dominated the clay courts, and was among the best in the world, the ATP never put him in first place.

Faced with this,

Vilas demanded the revision of the rankings for decades without success


At the same time, sports journalist Eduardo Puppo undertook a 12-year investigation to be able to show that the ranking had errors and that

Vilas was unfairly displaced from first place in world tennis


Together with the mathematician Marian Ciulpan, they compiled more than 1,200 pages and 23,000 games played by 1,117 tennis players.

Guillermo Vilas is the symbol of Argentine tennis.

In 2015, Gueilburt's partner read a story from

The New York Times

about Puppo's investigation, so they decided to contact him.

“We got together to talk in depth about his research and we thought it would be perfect for a documentary.

The first thing was to put together the script based on cassettes that Vilas had recorded at the time, which were in the hands of Puppo.

And so, Vilas can tell his story in the first person ”, says the director about this

ambitious production that took three years of work

and whose filming took place during 2019 in locations such as Buenos Aires, Mar del Plata, New York, Paris and Monaco.

In addition, the documentary collects testimonies from tennis legends and sports journalists from the most important media such as

The New York Times




Tennis Channel

, Vilas himself and his lawyer.

From a television interview in 1970, through its most emblematic parties, to the present, the documentary shows an infinity of archive material.

“Getting the archival materials - so beautiful and wonderful - took us a long time.

Vilas had saved everything with a tremendous level of obsession


From a suitcase with his name to the socks used in the US Open.

And unpublished material appeared that we did not know existed from when Vilas was 17 years old prior to university, telling that he was going to Punta del Este ”, reveals the filmmaker.

In 1977, Guillermo Vilas won 130 games and 16 titles, a mark that has yet to be surpassed.

Here at Roland Garros, where he was champion that year.

This chronological journey involved an intense emotional process.

“It was three years of diving between professional and emotional pleasure.

All the accompaniment to Eduardo, the ups and downs and getting to know all the friends and family in depth were getting me more and more involved ”, says Gueilburt about the documentary by the world ambassador of Argentine tennis and honorary captain of the Davis Cup.

The numbers, don't they lie?

Puppo's odyssey took 12 years.

During that time, the journalist immersed himself in the depths of the tennis universe to decipher the enigma and show that the ranking was wrong.

“I didn't do it out of friendship, because when I started the investigation we were not friends yet.

The objective was very clear from the beginning: to carry out a journalistic investigation, with a mathematical process and a search for justice, ”explains Puppo.

Guillermo Vilas, Eduardo Puppo and the rackets in between.

And he adds: “I was afraid that this would be worse for Vilas and discover that he had been number three, for example.

So I was in doubt.

Nobody had investigated this and I was always in doubt whether Vilas had been number one or not. "

The fact that served as a precedent was the decision of the Women's Tennis Association to recognize the Australian Evonne Goolagong as number one in 1976, 31 years later.

Puppo is considered the human encyclopedia of tennis: he is the author of the tetralogy of books

Historia del tenis en la Argentina

–together with Roberto Andersen- which with its 2,856 pages is the work of greater length and depth of tennis in a country worldwide.

Eduardo Puppo and Guillermo Vilas, in recognition as Honorary Captain of the Davis Cup team.

“Many things are said out there, such as that Vilas asked me to do it number one, or that I became a flatterer of the Vilas campaign, or that he manipulated me.

There they.

So wrong are they that

Vilas was the last to know about this investigation


I even had an exchange of words with him, but over the years we became closer people.

Friendship is not measured.

Today I am fighting for justice to be done ”.

Although the specialist assures that "tennis is a clean sport, since technically nothing can be done within a court, such as making time or throwing oneself on the floor", he argues that "the injustice that happened with Vilas is due to the precariousness of the '70s, when computing was in its infancy, where the results did not arrive ”.

"Sometimes we called the tournament directors by phone to see if a match had been played or not, to load the database or not, that was the degree of precariousness", emphasizes Puppo.

The tennis player's daughter, Andanin Vilas, was also part of the documentary

and publishes the days until the premiere on her networks.

“She is super excited.

He participated and was helping us there in Monaco.

The Vilas family knows that this is not over and that the objective is under development,

”explains Puppo.

And sentence: "A movie on Netflix also serves to expose to the world of tennis that there is a fault."

Guillermo and his father, José Roque Vilas,

“Vilas has already seen the documentary and liked it.

For us it is a great pride ”, assures the director about

the production that will be available in 190 countries

through Netflix, the streaming platform that has almost 200 million subscribers.

Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Mats Wilander, Boris Becker, Rod Laver, Björn Borg, Ion Tiriac and Gabriela Sabatini

were part of the documentary and expressed their admiration for the Argentine tennis player.

“The players wanted to participate for Guillermo, they wanted to be part of a movie that told this story.

Vilas was surprised, he said that they were much more champions than him, but they put it as a milestone ”, says the director.

Guillermo Vilas and Jimmy Connors, in the Monte Carlo tournament.

Obtaining these testimonies was not easy due to scheduling issues and the pandemic further complicated some reports, in fact, Tiriac was almost lost due to this event.

“Everyone reflects Vilas as a great champion.

Guillermo was very grateful.

Boris Becker thanked us for asking him about one of his idols,

”says the director.

"We thought we were rockstars": between Woodstock, Spinetta and the cinema

In addition to his tennis side, the documentary investigates Vilas's musical passion, marked by the postwar rock of Woodstock and Luis Alberto Spinetta.

1979 was a year of experimentation in the art world: he was part of

Only love Can Sustain

, the English album that Spinetta recorded in the United States, and he appeared in the film



the movie

star Ali MacGraw.

He also made a memorable French water advertisement.

“Guillermo once told me: 'We thought we were rockstars.'

The rock and music industry were constantly related to tennis.

The relationship between the tennis players and the artists worked very well ”, emphasizes Puppo.

The friendship between El Flaco Spinetta and Guillermo Vilas was embodied in an album recorded in the United States: Only Love Can Sustain or Only love can sustain.

“Vilas and Borg revolutionized tennis in the '70s from the technical point of view and also from the aesthetic point of view with headbands and long hair.

Tennis was typecast, traditional, to the nines and they changed all that.

From that moment on, tennis became known as the sport of men with headbands and long hair, ”he adds.

And he reveals a momentous fact: “There is footage of girls chasing Borg through the corridors of Wimbledon.

They adored them!

There was a whole mystique.

They had big contracts thanks to that image, in times when there was no internet or networks, there were not even live broadcasts on television ”.

Owner of an inexhaustible charisma, Vilas was a local everywhere

and a world idol.

And in this regard, Gueilburt redoubled the bet: “He drew attention on and off the pitch.

I think they are one of those characters that arouse passions everywhere.

Argentines or Latinos have something in their personality that comes out of coldness.

I remember his speech in Australia when he won and said that grass was for cows


He was always a character because of his hair, his body and his looks.

The more you know him, the more you become passionate about who Guillermo Vilas is ”.

Netflix has already been investigating the fascinating universe of sports idols with the



: the life of Carlos Tevez

, with

Fangio: the man who tampered with machines

 and now with Vilas.

Although Vilas's delicate state of health is minimally visible in the documentary,

not many details are given of his current life in Monaco

, where he has lived since 2016 with his Thai wife Phiangphathu Khumueang and their four children.

Guillermo Vilas, with his family in Monte Carlo, on his birthday.

Instagram photo @vilasguillermook

“He is fine, supported by his family.

I just spoke to your inner circle and it's fine.

The subject of your health is totally private.

Our relationship now is by phone, we continue to be very close ”, highlights the journalist.

Puppo assures that the fight is more alive than ever: “

Vilas achieved something very important for Argentine sports and was buried by the bureaucracy

, so I hope this helps him to recover something that corresponds to him.

This story is still unfinished ”.

Coria and the importance of being called Guillermo

“I named my son Guillermo for you,” says an Argentine to Vilas in Monaco on the street.

Not only was he an idol at a sports level, Vilas also served as an inspiration for many parents who baptized their children with the name Guillermo.

That was the case of Guillermo "El mago" Coria, who was touched with the wand of his predecessor and became No. 3 in the world ranking in May 2004. “I don't know if my destiny was marked by this fact, but I had the chance and the luck to continue with this race until the end ”, reflects Coria in dialogue with



Guillermo Vilas, with Guillermo "El mago" Coria, when he was 12 years old.

The relationship between the two began at the inauguration of the Vilas Club, today known as the Racket Club, when Coria was only 12 years old, while Vilas was already recognized around the world for his achievements.

Already at his early age, the Magician idolized him: “As a child, Vilas was my reference, my idol.

I believe that he promoted tennis in Argentina and was the idol of everyone, not only of tennis lovers, but of all athletes.

The truth is that

I saw him and dreamed of trying to follow in his footsteps


The former captain of our Davis Cup team always admired Vilas not only for his game, but for the attitude he had towards sport: “Vilas inspired grit and passion, he never gave himself up, he fought to the end, he didn't give any ball giving up, she also gave a lot of importance to training.

He was a bit what Nadal is today ”.

In this round trip with Vilas, the magician continues to remember the moments lived with him to this day.

He was always there for me and that is priceless


Calling me Guillermo for him and that he has always attended and received me with good vibes and predisposition to help me and continue improving in my career;

they are memories that I will always have as a person ”.

And without hesitation, he gives his verdict: “He

was number one, he was back number one and hopefully he will be recognized


He was, is, and will always continue to be number one in the ranking, on and off the pitch ”.

Texts: Luciana Boglioli, Tomás Freijo and Gaspard Monge, from the Clarín / San Andrés Masters


Source: clarin

All news articles on 2020-10-26

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