Guillermo Vilas is a world champion tennis player from Argentina that won 62 ATP singles titles and 4 Grand Slam titles. The magazine World Tennis and Michel Sutter, among other publications, gave Vilas the World No. 1 ranking. Named as the “Young Bull of the Pampas” for his strength and endurance, Guillermo Vilas is one of the most celebrated tennis players of all times.
His success brought him unprecedented fame and status on the continent, and some say that Vilas is responsible for the popularity of tennis in Argentina today. A left-handed baseliner, he was the first South American male player to win a Grand Slam singles title.
The Records and Rankings of Guillermo Vilas
Four Grand Slam titles
Guillermo Vilas won 4 Grand Slam titles: 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 five Championship Series titles (1975–80) the precursors to the current Masters 1000.
Winning streak, most titles in a single year
Vilas had a 46-match all-surface winning streak (still unrivalled) and won seven consecutive titles – Kitzbühel (clay), Washington (clay), Louisville (hard), South Orange (hard), Columbus (hard), US Open (clay) and Paris (clay) after Wimbledon in 1977. He also had a record 57-match winning streak on 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 by the ATP shortly after). 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.
In 1977, Guillermo Vilas became the only man that had won titles in five different continents in the same year.
World No. 1 Tennis Player
Despite the astonishing victories of Guillermo Vilas that include 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. He was instead rated a World No. 2 in those rankings, below Jimmy Connors (who won the Masters and six other titles and was the runner-up at Wimbledon and the US Open in 1977).
However, the way in which the current rankings are calculated would have given Vilas the number one ranking in 1977. Also, a study published in February 2011 in the journal PLoS ONE (Volume 6, Issue 2, e17249) analyzed all tennis match records for 1977 and concluded that Vilas was the best player of that year.
The magazine World Tennis and Michel Sutter gave Vilas the World No. 1 ranking in 1977, along with other rankings and publications. Also, Guillermo Vilas was honourably included to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1991, two years after his first retirement.