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Guillermo Vilas

Guillermo Vilas
Guillermo Vilas in 1975
Country (sports)  Argentina
Residence Buenos Aires, Argentina
Born (1952-08-17) 17 August 1952
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Height 180 cm (5 ft 11 in)
Turned pro 1969[1]
Retired 1992
Plays Left-handed (one-handed backhand)
Prize money US$ 4,923,882
Int. Tennis HoF 1991 (member page)
Career record 929–286 (76.5%)
Career titles 62 (ATP)
Highest ranking No. 2 (30 April 1975) by ATP
Grand Slam Singles results
Australian Open W (1978, 1979)
French Open W (1977)
Wimbledon QF (1975, 1976)
US Open W (1977)
Other tournaments
Tour Finals W (1974)
WCT Finals F (1976)
Career record 217–150
Career titles 16
Highest ranking No. 13 (21 May 1979)
Vilas celebrating his win at the 1977 French Open.
Guillermo Vilas at the 1974 Dutch Open

Guillermo Vilas (Spanish pronunciation: ; born 17 August 1952, in Buenos Aires, Argentina) is a retired professional tennis player from Argentina who won four major singles titles. Known for his prolific match play, especially on clay, he became the second man to win more than 900 matches in the Open Era, and his 660 wins on clay are by far the most of the era. His peak was the 1977 season during which he won two major titles (both on clay), had two long match win streaks of 46 all-surface and 53 on clay, and finished with an Open Era record 134 match wins. He also popularized the between-the-legs tweener shot, also known as the "Gran Willy" in his honor.


  • Career 1
    • Best year 1.1
    • Winning streak, most titles in a single year 1.2
    • Retirement 1.3
  • Distinctions 2
  • Career statistics 3
    • Singles performance timeline 3.1
    • Grand Slam finals: 8 (4 titles, 4 runner-ups) 3.2
    • Records 3.3
  • Notes 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


Raised in the seaside resort of Mar del Plata, Vilas was a southpaw and played his first tour event in 1969. He was in the year-ending top ten from 1974 through 1982. He was a clay-court specialist but also played well on hard, grass, and carpet surfaces.

He won four Grand Slam titles: the 1977 French Open and the 1977 US Open (both played on clay) and the 1978 and 1979 Australian Open (both played on grass). He was also the runner-up at the French Open three times (1975, 1978, and 1982) and at the Australian Open once (January 1977).

In 1974 he won the year end Masters Grand Prix title. In addition he won seven Grand Prix Super Series titles (1975–80) the precursors to the current Masters 1000.

Best year

A left-handed baseliner, Vilas's best year on tour was 1977 when he won two of the four Grand Slam singles tournaments and 16 of the 31 Association of Tennis Professionals tournaments he entered.[2] His playing record for 1977 was 145 wins against 15 losses (ATP win-loss record was 130–15). Not including the Masters year-end championship, he won 72 of his last 73 ATP matches in 1977. The highest point during this phenomenal run was winning the last US Open played at Forest Hills against Jimmy Connors 2–6, 6–3, 7–6, 6–0 in a match where Vilas surprised his American rival by attacking the net.[3]

Winning streak, most titles in a single year

In 1977 he won seven consecutive titles after clay courts (including both Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and unofficial tournaments), which stood until the record was broken by Rafael Nadal in 2006. Both his winning streaks were terminated in October 1977 by Ilie Năstase in the final of the Aix-en-Provence tournament. In that best of five-set final, Vilas dropped the first two sets by 6–1, 7–5 and then retired in protest of Năstase's use of a spaghetti strung racquet (which was banned shortly after by the ATP).[4] After that he won a further 28 matches in a row with titles at Tehran, Bogotá, Santiago, Buenos Aires (all on clay) and Johannesburg (hard). That run was ended in the Masters semifinals by Björn Borg

Even though he won 16 ATP singles titles, including the French Open and the US Open and was the runner-up at the January edition of the Australian Open in 1977, he was never ranked by the ATP as World No. 1 during 1977 which was due to the fact that the rankings at the time were based on the average of a player’s results. He was instead year-end World No. 2, behind Jimmy Connors (who won the Masters and six other titles and was the runner-up at Wimbledon and the US Open in 1977). Argentine journalist Eduardo Puppo and Romanian mathematician Marian Ciulpan[5] investigated Vilas' tournament records and came to the conclusion that Vilas should have been ranked No. 1 for five weeks in 1975 as well as during the first two weeks of 1976 and handed over their research to the ATP at the end of 2014. In May 2015 the ATP announced it had decided not to grant Vilas the No. 1 position because it happened in the interval between the publication of the official rankings. [6]


Vilas retired from the ATP tour in 1989 but still played ATP Challenger Series until 1992.[7] He was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1991.[3] Vilas was in the stands at Flushing Meadows to cheer on his countryman, Juan Martín del Potro, who beat Roger Federer in an upset in the US Open finals in 2009.[8]


  • Won the Grand Prix circuit in 1974, 1975, and 1977.
  • Held the open era male record for the longest winning streak on clay courts at 53 matches, set in 1977, until it was bettered by Rafael Nadal in 2006. Nadal later extended this to 81 matches.
  • Won 62 ATP singles titles (eighth highest during the open era) and was the runner-up in 40 singles tournaments (plus two unfinished finals). Won 16 doubles titles with other 10 doubles finals.
  • He took Argentina to its first-ever Davis Cup final in 1981 (lost to the United States), together with José Luis Clerc, who was also a top-ten player. The Argentine press often referred to the tensions between the two of them, which even reverberated to the 2004 French Open awards ceremony, in which Vilas presented Gastón Gaudio with his trophy over Clerc's objections.
  • Vilas's success on the court led to a surge in popularity of tennis in Argentina and throughout Latin America. Guillermo Cañas and Guillermo Coria were named after him.
  • In 2005, TENNIS Magazine put Vilas in 24th place in its list of the 40 Greatest Players of the Tennis Open Era (women included).
  • The only player to win ATP Tour singles titles in five different continents in the same year, 1977 – Europe, South America, North America, Africa, and Asia.

Career statistics

Singles performance timeline

Tournament 1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 SR W–L
Grand Slam tournaments
Australian Open[1] A A A A A A A F A W W SF 3R A A A A NH A A A 2 / 5 23–3
French Open A A 3R[9] 3R 3R F QF W F QF QF 4R F QF 1R 2R QF 2R 2R 1R 1 / 18 58–17
Wimbledon 1R A 1R A 3R QF QF 3R 3R 2R A 1R A 1R A A 1R A A A 0 / 11 15–11
US Open A A 2R 1R 4R SF SF W 4R 4R 4R 4R SF 3R 3R 2R 1R A A A 1 / 15 43–14
Win–Loss 0–1 0–0 5–3 2–2 7–3 15–3 13–3 21–2 17–3 14–3 10–3 8–4 11–2 6–3 2–2 2–2 4–3 1–1 1–1 0–1 4 / 49 139–45
Year-end ranking 31 5 2 6 2 3 6 4 4 4 11 28 39 22 71 126 408
Year-End Championship
Masters A A A A W SF SF SF[2] A RR[2] RR[2] RR[2] SF[2] A A A A A A A 1 / 8 16–11

Grand Slam finals: 8 (4 titles, 4 runner-ups)

Outcome Year Championship Surface Opponent in the final Score in the final
Runner-up 1975 French Open Clay Björn Borg 2–6, 3–6, 4–6
Runner-up 1977 Australian Open Grass Roscoe Tanner 3–6, 3–6, 3–6
Winner 1977 French Open Clay Brian Gottfried 6–0, 6–3, 6–0
Winner 1977 US Open Clay Jimmy Connors 2–6, 6–3, 7–6(7–4), 6–0
Runner-up 1978 French Open (2) Clay Björn Borg 1–6, 1–6, 3–6
Winner 1978 Australian Open Grass John Marks 6–4, 6–4, 3–6, 6–3
Winner 1979 Australian Open (2) Grass John Sadri 7–6(7–4), 6–3, 6–2
Runner-up 1982 French Open (3) Clay Mats Wilander 6–1, 6–7(6–8), 0–6, 4–6


  • These records were attained in Open Era of tennis.
  • ^ Denotes consecutive streak.
Event Years Record accomplished Player tied
US Open 1977 72.1% (106–41) games winning percentage in 1 tournament Stands alone
Grand Slam 1973–88 75 clay court match wins Stands alone
Grand Prix Tour 1977 16 titles in 1 season Stands alone
Grand Prix Tour 1977 14 clay court titles in 1 season Stands alone
Grand Prix Tour 1973–83 49 clay court titles Stands alone
Grand Prix Tour 1973–88 632 clay court match wins Stands alone
Grand Prix Tour 1977 145 match wins in 1 season Stands alone
Grand Prix Tour 1973–83 794 outdoor matches won Stands alone


  1. ^ The Australian Open was played twice in 1977, in January and December. Vilas played only in the January event.
  2. ^ a b c d e The year-ending Masters tournament was actually played in January of the following year.


  1. ^ "Sports Network bio". Retrieved 25 January 2015. 
  2. ^ "Player Activity – Guillermo Vilas". ATP World Tour. 1977. Retrieved 26 May 2015. 
  3. ^ a b "Guillermo Vilas". Hall of Famers. International Tennis Hall of Fame. 1991. 
  4. ^ Dicker, Ron (30 August 2004). "With Few Exceptions, the String Remains the Same". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 12 November 2008. 
  5. ^ Diego Amuy (26 May 2015). "Guillermo Vilas has been number one in the world".  
  6. ^ Christopher Clarey (25 May 2015). "Years Later for Guillermo Vilas, He’s Still Not the One".  
  7. ^ "Player activity – Guillermo Vilas". ATP World Tour. 1992. Retrieved 26 May 2015. 
  8. ^ Howard Fendrich (1 January 2009). "Federer stunned by del Potro in US Open final".  
  9. ^ "1972 French Open draw". Retrieved 11 September 2012. 

External links

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