ATP Players

Guillermo Vilas

Guillermo Vilas (born August 17, 1952 in Buenos Aires, Argentina) is a former Argentine professional tennis player.

Career

Vilas turned professional in 1969, finishing in the top ten from 1974 to 1982. He was a clay-court specialist, but also played well in hardcourt, grass and carpet.

A southpaw, Vilas became the first South American male player to win a grand slam event, winning four times: the French Open and U.S. Open titles 1977 (both played on claycourt), and the 1978 and 1979 Australian Open titles (both played on grass). He was also three-times French Open runner-up (1975, 1978 and 1982) and once Australian Open runner-up (January, 1977)

Raised in the sea resort of Mar del Plata, Vilas played his first tour event in 1969 and got his first big break in the 1974 Masters tournament (played in grass), where he defeated Ilie N?stase in the final match.

A left-handed baseliner Vilas' best season on tour was 1977 when he not only won two of the four majors but also 16 of the 31 ATP tournaments he entered (absolute record in the Open Era), a record which at the time had only ever been equaled by the legendary Rod Laver. His playing record for that season was an amazing 145 wins against 14 losses (ATP win-loss record was 128-14). The season climax was winning the last US Open played at Forest Hills against Jimmy Connors 2-6, 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-0 in a match where Vilas surprised his American rival by attacking the net.

He has a 46 match winning streak on any surfaces (still unrivalled) and consecutively won 7 titles -Kitzbühel (Clay), Washington (Clay), Louisville (Hard), South Orange (Hard), Columbus (Hard), U.S. Open (Clay) and Paris (Clay) after Wimbledon in 1977. He also had 53 winning streak in claycourt (including both ATP and unofficial tournaments, record broken by Rafael Nadal in 2006). Both his winning streaks were terminated on October 1977 by Ilie N?stase in the final of Aix-en-Provence tournament. In that 5-setter final, he dropped the first 2 sets by 1-6, 5-7 and then retired from the competition because of his dissatifaction with Ilie N?stase's using an illegal racquet. He complained that the opponent had used the spaghetti string racquet which was banned by ATP shortly after.

Even though he won 16 ATP singles titles including French Open (named after Roland Garros) and U.S. Open and the runner-up of Australian Open of January in 1977, he never rose up to number 1. He was year-end number 2 in the 1977 ATP ranking, only below Jimmy Connors (who won 7 titles including Masters and both runners-up of Wimbledon and US Open in 1977). However, the magazine World Tennis, generally the referring one of that sport at that time, gave Vilas the number one ranking and Champion of the World title.

Vilas retired from the ATP tour in 1989, but still played ATP Challenger Series until 1992.  His highest tour ranking was World No. 2. He was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1991. At the end of his career, he had 62 ATP singles titles (5th most in Open Era) with 41 singles runners-up, and 15 doubles titles with other 10 doubles finals.

He also took Argentina to its first-ever Davis Cup final in 1981 (lost to U.S.A.), together with José Luis Clerc, who was also a top-ten player. The Argentine press made many mentions of the tensions between the two, which even reverberated to the 2004 French Open awards ceremony, in which Vilas presented Gastón Gaudio with his trophy, over Clerc's objections.

Vilas is single-handedly responsible for the popularity of tennis in Argentina or even Latin America. Guillermo Cañas and Guillermo Coria were named after him.

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