The film is much more than Eduardo Puppo’s investigation to verify if the tennis player was, or not, Number 1 in the world.
“Do you have an idea what this role means to me?” The phrase said by Guillermo Vilas to the sports journalist, researcher and, in the end, his friend, Eduardo Puppo synthesizes what it represents for the greatest tennis player in Argentine history to be considered Number 1 in the ATP ranking, at least for seven weeks .
It is something that, we know, the Association of Professional Tennis Players, of which the Mar del Plata was its founder, never made official. Nor will it recognize.
The word that may not be the one that is repeated the most, but the one that is most ingrained with this documentary that Netflix premieres today is passion.
Vilas’s passion for aspiring to be the best, number 1 in everything he set out to do since he wielded a racket at age 6 after watching a tournament with his father in Villa Gesell. The passion for work and his dedication to training 6 to 9 hours a day with his coach Ion Tiriac.
And, as if it were a doubles couple, that of Puppo himself, who spared no effort, time or passion to correct what, with the results of the tournament matches between August 1973 and December 31 of 1978, according to his calculations they show that Guillermo Vilas was number 1 for five consecutive weeks since September 22, 1975 and for two weeks in January 1976.
What he feels, what Puppo has is a love for Vilas that at some point in the film directed by Matías Gueilburt leads him to get emotional to tears.
The documentary is a bit eclectic. It does not focus only on Vilas’ dispute with the ATP, although it is clear that it is the nerve center. There are photos, archive images, Vilas’s voice is heard on cassettes that the tennis player recorded as if it were an intimate diary, and the famous notebooks that he wrote are seen, as a companion witness to his tours around the world, and that Puppo became her conservative, her jealous protector.
“I want you to be the custodian of my life,” says Vilas’s friend who the athlete told him. And Puppo shows from half-shirts with brick dust, rackets, wristbands, trophies. Vilas moved to Monaco in 2016 with his wife Phiangphathu Khumueang and their children.
The documentary also offers interviews with tennis glories like Björn Borg (they were such friends that they bought liters of yogurt and drank it together while watching television), Boris Becker, Mats Wilander, and current, like Nadal or Federer, and Gaby Sabatini, who understand Yes, that Vilas was Number 1, although “the way of counting the points was different” in the past … If the protagonist is Vilas, Puppo took years of his life – and of his family life – to collect statistics, he added to a Romanian computer engineer, just as passionate about tennis as him, Mariun Ciulpan, and presented what he called Project V (for Vilas) to the ATP.
For those of us who saw Vilas play at the Buenos Aires Lawn Tennis Club, that red brick dust that remains imbued in memory, as much as the blow in his hand, and how he stroked the racket before taking a serve, all of that is in the documentary film.
Also, “the fear of winning, more than losing”, as Tiriac says, how the harmony in the head happened to outweigh the anxiety in Vilas and even some images from 2019, in which Puppo visits Willy in Monaco and they walk together, arms around their weary shoulders.
“Vilas: You will be what you should be or you will be nothing”
Documental. Argentina, 2020. 94′, ATP. Of: Matías Gueilburt. Available in: Netflix.