Guillermo Vilas, this titan | TN

At the end of the 1950s and beginning of the 1960s, the Mar del Plata Nautical Club fronton witnessed the birth of one of the most outstanding tennis players in the world and, also, of the greatest Argentine athletes of all time: William Vilas.

As a child, I spent many hours with the racket in handtesting his strength, returning his own blows from drivebackhand, shots, volleys… forging his character, tempering himself and acquiring the feeling of a true champion of white sport, the one that a short time before was exclusive to the upper classes and that, at that time, people still played with clothing of that color.

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That boy, with intelligence and perseverance, became a tennis titan and today, like decades ago, it is there, high above, in that Olympus that it can share with Diego Maradona, Manu Ginobili, Leo Messi, Juan Manuel Fangio and other giants that marked the history of our sport.

But Vilas not only left his mark as an athlete -his achievements were immense and, to this day, unrepeatable-, he also, with his example, encouraged the following generations of tennis players reached a great level and, on the other hand, managed to popularize tennis and generate an authentic revolution during the hard and dark times of the 70’s and early 80’s in Argentina.

Precisely, the analysis of this phenomenon and what Vilas meant for Argentine sport is one of the axes of “Vilas / Number 1″the Clarín journalist’s book, Luis Vinkeredited by Editorial Planeta and which has just been launched.

Guillermo Vilas, the best Argentine tennis player in history.

Vinker, who deeply knows the athlete and the man, maintains that “Guillermo Vilas was not only the most relevant Argentine tennis player of all time -and one of the best in the world- but he is also one of the greatest athletes in the history of our country. That refers both to his sports successes (so far unmatched) as to what it meant as freak: the first who turned his sport into a massive showgenerating an entire industry around it and, in addition, raising the technical level of national tennis that could be continued for several generations”.

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The author adds: “Argentine tennis has a rich history but, starting with Vilas, it was placed in the international foregrounds. And the phenomenon of massiveness continues to this day. That is, those who practice it as a means of health, recreation, sharing with friends. If before there were very few, from that time on they were thousands and then millions. It is very difficult to find another similar case in Argentine sports as an entire industry is generated from a single name. an impressive influence”.

Without a doubt, the creator of big willy (the shot that Guillermo invented by hitting the ball between the legs, with his back to the net) was the one who inspired the entire long series of excellent professional tennis players that came after his time on the courts.

With testimonies from that time and also the current memories of its protagonists -players, coaches, leaders, journalists- the book reflects the human, professional, artistic and sentimental aspects of a personality that marked time.

“I am not exaggerating when I define the sensations that Vilas provoked on the pitch as a magic aurasimilar to what Maradona generated in soccer stadiums”, he points out. Franco Davinwho trained the two Argentine tennis players who inherited Willy’s titles in the Grand Slam: Gaston Gaudí, at Roland Garros and Juan Martin del Potroin the US Open.

“We once maintained that our aspiration in tennis was for its message and values ​​to transcend sporting results. I understand that tennis develops a sense of responsibilityis an activity where we must learn to live with the victoriesbut also with frustrations. Vilas’s legacy as a tennis player also comes to us from there,” he says in the book’s prologue. Daniel Orsaniccaptain of the national team that won the Davis cup.

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For his part, Vinker contributes: “Vilas showed that an Argentine tennis player could compete at the highest level, in one of the most competitive environments in sport, very tough due to individual dedication, technical evolution and all the load and physical pressure. , technical and psychological that this requires”.

“Those sporting successes (especially his impressive series of 77, his hitherto unbeatable streak of consecutive wins, his coronation at the Masters and his four Grand Slam titles) were also a reason for pride and celebration for the Argentine public in his time, and a source of admiration for the public of all fields”, he adds.

The social legacy of Guillermo Vilas

As Vinker comments, the Vilas phenomenon It led to a massive incorporation of young and old to the practice of sport. In addition, for the first time and also massively, women began to be interested in sports issues. Although previously there were great sportswomen (athletes, swimmers or tennis players), the sports pages of the media were taken over by soccer, boxing and motor racing and women were not interested.

“Vilas, for his successes and also for his charisma, for the enthusiasm and effort he displayed, began to attract a much larger audience. And it also had that image -we could define it as “cultural”- that was not a sign of snobbery but of his own training, of a person who, in addition to his absolute concentration on his sports “mission”, also exhibited broader interests, trying to avoid the image of a “sports robot”, tells the journalist.

And that’s the meaning of booka tribute to someone who has left a legacy that transcends sports and is installed as a model of life that reflects the result of effort, talent, friendship, art and amor in all its forms.

“With the publishers, we did not set out a biography of Vilas (since this is known, and another part is yet to be written and complemented). That idea was to reflect some central aspects of Vilas: his origins, his youthful dreams (was he aware that he could be a champion, or not?); illustrate what tennis meant at that time and its absolute differences with today (in investment, technology, physical, etc.); also include some of his greatest exploits and some of his controversies; reflect as far as possible their experiences, their cultural concerns, their family relationshipssome of his adventures, his dealings with the media and his perception of the phenomenon he generated”, concludes Vinker.

The next august 17in Montecarlo (the country where he settled some time ago, together with his wife and four children), the great William Vilasthe titan, who is facing difficult health conditions, will be 70 years old. That day, the testimonies of affection, encouragement and admiration that he knew how to reap with the pure stroke of a racket will return to him, from the fronton of the entire world.



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