In a documentary that will premiere on Netflix, journalist Eduardo Puppo shows the investigation that determined that Willy had the results to rise to the top of the ladder. The strange arguments of the entity that makes the rankings not to back down.
Guillermo Vilas, a living legend of Argentine tennis, made his talent shine on the courts around the world and earned a place among the best players in the history of that sport. In the 70s, the most successful of his career, he officially reached second place in the world ranking, which began to be made in 1973. However, an investigation by the journalist Eduardo Puppo showed that the Mar del Plata made enough merits to be number one in the world.
Why did he never appear in that position? Because at that time, the rankings were not published weekly and just in the weeks in which the Big willy had accumulated the necessary points to reach the top, the ranking was not released. So his name never figured in the first place. And despite various claims, the ATP continues to refuse to retroactively correct that mistake.
“We cannot rewrite history. Although the ranking system evolved over the years, the ATP does not plan to recalculate its rankings retrospectively,” he explained in a talk with The New York Times mid 2015 Chris Kermode, president of the Association of Professional Tennis Players between 2013 and 2019.
The English leader thus justified the rejection of one of the requests made by Puppo and Vilas, based on those “gaps” in which the rankings were not published.
American Jimmy Connors first reached the top of the rankings in July 1974 and, according to official ATP records, he stayed there for more than three consecutive years, until August 1977. However In that period, only 128 ranking updates were made and 152 weeks were “empty”, but for statistics, at that time, the North American was the leader.
Why were those weeks left without information? Because unlike what happens today, in which tennis fans live expectantly of the changes at the top of the ladder and for players to reach “1” is a dream, in those early years the ranking was used more Nothing to create a more fair and fair tournament entry list.
After 13 years of research and meticulous work, in which he consulted more than a hundred sources, he recovered results of matches lost in time and received the collaboration of the Romanian mathematician Marian Ciulpan, Puppo performed the rankings calculations for those forgotten weeks. He used the system used at that time, which took into account average points based on games played, and managed to show that Vilas should have been number one.
The Mar del Plata would have held that position for five weeks between September 22 and October 27, 1975 and again for two weeks between January 5 and 18, 1976.
This first period coincides with a period of 43 days in which the ATP did not publish the update of the classification, which was modified only 13 times throughout 1975. Meanwhile, the first ranking of 1976 was registered in the week of February 2 and there were no official data for January.
In December 2007, the WTA corrected its statistics and recognized, 31 years later, that the Australian Evonne Goolagonf-Cawley he had been number one for two weeks in 1976. That news gave Puppo the clean and jerk he needed to begin his investigation.
Logic suggested that Vilas should have been number one at some point in 1977, his best year. That season, the Argentine won 16 titles, including Roland Garros and the US Open, and won 136 games. But the calculations showed that his own competitive spirit had worked against him.
It is that the Mar del Plata played 32 tournaments that year, despite the fact that not all of them delivered units. And when making the average of points – according to the system used in those years – he ended up with a coefficient of 57.50. Connors, who played 23 competitions and added eight titles, half of those won by the Argentine, averaged 59.80 units and therefore was the leader in the ranking.
Discarded that possibility of number one in 1977, Puppo then decided to claim for the “empty” weeks in the 1975 statistics, a season in which Vilas won five trophies and played another three finals, including the Parisian Grand Slam.
The journalist – who has already altered the historical records by getting Vilas recognized three new titles on brick dust – presented a document of about 1,100 pages to the ATP, with analysis, tables and other statistics of some 22,545 games played by more than a thousand players in 542 tournaments, from August 23, 1973, the day the first official ranking was released, until December 31, 1978.
And although the numbers proved him right and were not refuted by the association that governs men’s tennis, the ATP did not grant the request to award Vilas number one.
“If we go to 1975, for example, which was the year in which Vilas had the best average, there were only thirteen published rankings and the year has 52 weeks. 39 are missing and there is no coherent explanation to understand why they were given to a player if they are not published, “Puppo commented in an interview with the newspaper Page 12.