Sunday, 22 November 2020 – 02:13

Journalist Eduardo Puppo investigated for years and found that the Argentine had surpassed Jimmy Connors in seven weeks between 1975 and 1976. Despite this, the ATP does not recognize him and the case has reached the courts. The story forms ‘Vilas’, the Netflix documentary.

Guillermo Vilas, at Roland Garros 1975.
Universal

Seven weeks. Guillermo Vilas He was number one in the world ranking for seven weeks in two different periods from 1975 to 1976: five between September and October 1975 and two more in January 1976. The Argentine cracked the dominance of Jimmy Connors between 1974 and 1979 and became the fourth leader on the list after Ilie Nastase, John Newcombe and Connors himself. The statistical fact would be one more anecdote, a good Trivial question, if it weren’t because it isn’t. It is not at all.

For years, the ATP has refused to acknowledge Vilas’ rise over and over again. “It is one of the great injustices in the history of sport,” explains the Argentine journalist

Eduardo Puppo

that he compiled the results of all the tournaments of that time, that he recalculated the rankings and that he has even taken the case to court so that the number one of his compatriot is recognized. The documentary ‘Vilas. You will be what you should be or you will be nothing ‘of Netflix now narrates his fight, the trajectory of the tennis player and the friendship that emerged between them. The outcome is sad, but to understand it you need to know the full story. “In 2007 Guillermo returned to claim his number one from the ATP and, faced with another refusal, he decided not to do it again. For him, as for any tennis player, it was very important to be recognized as number one in his time, but that was a lost cause I found out, but I was working at Roland Garros and didn’t give it more importance until a few months later, the WTA recognized an old number one from

Evonne Goolagong

. It seemed like a divine call to me and I began to investigate Guillermo. I thought that in 15 days I would have the report ready. Who would have told me that 13 years later I would continue with him “, says Puppo, who has covered more than 50 Grand Slam for various magazines and for CNN en Español, in a telephone conversation from Buenos Aires.

A life in the air

His first task to find out if Vilas had been number one was to collect all the results of his years in business, but he soon discovered the difficulty. The ATP archives were non-existent and you had to go to newspaper libraries around the world, to the USTA or Wimbledon libraries or to your contacts at many tournaments. In the next six years, Puppo turned his house into a file, he wanted to leave it “five or six times”, his marriage faltered, but in the end he succeeded: in 2013 he had the necessary information to recalculate the rankings. It only remained to take out the calculator. Alone. “That was impossible, a gibberish, I exceeded my knowledge and I fell apart. Luckily my wife started looking through internet forums and met a Romanian engineer,

Marian Ciulpan

, who at the same time was a tennis fanatic. In July 2013 I gave him all the information I collected and he created a program capable of recalculating the rankings. A year and a half later, in December 2014, I wrote to the ATP. We had discovered that Vilas was number one for seven weeks between 1975 and 1976 “, continues Puppo, explaining what happened. The ATP did not make mistakes with the calculations, it did not add points to Connors or subtract Vilas, it simply never did. In the first years of his ranking, created in 1973, he updated the list randomly, a dozen times each season, and the rest of the weeks were in limbo. Officially Connors was number one all of 1975, but in reality It was only in the 13 weeks recorded. The rest? It is not known. And although Puppo’s work fills that gap, the ATP refuses to accept his data. Why?

A sad ending

Fear of an avalanche of claims, pressure or sheer disinterest in the statistics: the organization has never discovered the reasons for rejecting Puppo’s requests about Vilas up to three times and that is why the journalist has had to turn to a lawyer, also an Argentine

Adrián Sautu de la Riestra

, and take the case to court. In the process, yes, he has enjoyed the excitement of Vilas knowing that, as he intuited, he was number one in the ranking for seven weeks. “At first he did not react, it was difficult for him to assimilate it, it was very emotional for him,” says the journalist, who was then united in a friendship with the former tennis player and who hopes that a judge “will do justice” soon. Because time is running against you. Last April, the newspaper ‘Olé’ revealed that Vilas suffers from Alzheimer’s and that at the age of 68 his physical condition is delicate. Hence the sadness that surrounds the end of the documentary: official recognition as number one may be late. “I sincerely hope that health accompanies Guillermo until there is a resolution”, concludes Puppo after many years of work.

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