When the Masters was dyed blue and white: that steamroller named Guillermo Vilas and the surprise of David Nalbandian

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World tennis was shaken when he saw the Mar del Plata win in Melbourne in 1974 and when he was thrilled with the victory of the Cordovan in 2005, in Shanghai.

Diego Schwartzman knows: his first participation in the London Masters will not be easy at all. In the British capital, he will face some of the best players in the world from Monday. That is why he advised that it will go step by step.

The first objective will be to win in the debut, which will be nothing less than against Novak Djokovic, top seed. Then he will think about the chance to get into the semifinals. But Small flying high was also encouraged. “The dream is to be a champion”, notice. If he gives the surprise and raises the trophy in the O2 Arena, will become the third Argentine to win a title of Maestro.

Who were the other two? None other than Guillermo Vilas, the best Argentine tennis player in history, and David Nalbandian, one of the greatest talents of La Legión, that litter that brought so much joy to blue and white tennis.

Vilas conquered his title in 1974, when the contest was known as Masters Grand Prize. That edition, the fifth in the tournament’s history, was played in Melbourne, between December 9 and 15, on grass.

The man from Mar del Plata had lived a consecrating season, in which he had added six titles (Gstaad, Hilversum, Louisville, Toronto, Tehran and Buenos Aires) and had stayed with the Gran Price, the ranking of the players with the most points in the year.

With 22 years, Vilas landed in Australia with credentials to be excited, although with little experience in big events and the concern that the surface on which the contest would be played represented for his game – especially for the serve.

Luckily for him, American Jimmy Connors, who that year had won the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open, got sick shortly before the start of the event.

The draw left the Mar del Plata in the Azul group with the locals John Newcombe, number two in the world, and Onny Parun and the Swede Björn Borg (4th).

The Big willy, who occupied the ninth step of the ranking, beat them all three and got into the semifinals. In that instance he defeated the Mexican 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 and 7-5 Raul Ramirez. And in the final he won 7-6 (8-6), 6-2, 3-6, 3-6 and 6-4 against the Romanian Precisely Nastase, sixth in the ranking.

That decisive duel was a real test for the Argentine’s mentality, because Nastase, seeing himself two sets down, resorted as was his custom to talks and discussions with the public and the umpire to try to deconcentrate his rival. And he did it for a while, but Vilas managed to get back into the game in the fifth set and seal a historic victory.

With the triumph consummated, he celebrated in style and said goodbye with a phrase that was immortalized. “Until a couple of months ago, I thought that grass was for cows. Now I think it is for cows … and for tennis players too,” he said with a laugh.

Juan Carlos Belfonte, a historical physical trainer of the Davis Cup team who was known in the tennis world as “El Profe”, accompanied Vilas in that tournament. A few years ago, he reflected: “I have never seen Guillermo’s tennis like in that tournament again: loose, youthful, not at all schematic. Throughout his career, I have seen him great games, but what he played in the Masters 74, never more”.

And he added: “Guillermo’s triumph in that tournament was decisive for the future development of tennis in Argentina.”

It took 31 years to see an Argentine raise the trophy of “Maestro“. Nalbandian got it in 2005. The tournament called Tennis Masters Cup He returned to Shanghai, the city that had hosted him in 2002 and which would be his home for four editions.


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