One of the biggest controversies this year 2015 is which has faced Guillermo Vilas with the ATP as a result of a study, prepared by the Argentinean journalist and researcher Eduardo Puppo in conjunction with the Romanian mathematician Marian Ciulpan, whereby the legendary argentine champion would have been number one in the world for a few weeks in 1975 and 1976.
The case is based on the fact that the ATP did not publish ranking lists for long periods of time between the second half of the year 1975 and the first half of 1976. The investigation – which, according to their authors arises from a private initiative and was not requested by Vilas – states that in 18 of those weeks without published lists, technically Vilas reached number 1 in both 1975 and 1976. That is, not discuss the peculiar ranking rules of those years. What it is claimed is to rebuild the lists which are missing, with the standard of the time.
And certainly, according to the response of the ATP, the analysis of the researchers is strictly accurate. Because the ATP has denied the argentine request, not based on the incorrectness of this, but citing grounds of “inconvenience”. ” rewriting history is impossible”, said Chris Kermode last May, president of the ATP, which argues that the published rankings are correct and he does not wants to talk about lost rankings: “simply, the rankings were not published weekly at that time”, added the British.
In thetennisbase we believe that the ATP is wrong in this matter. It is perfectly understandable that in 1975 not weekly lists were published, not because it was not desirable, but because the resources were not, by far, the ones we have today. From this point of view, the argument of Kermode conforms the truth only in a formal way. In reality, there was no written rule about the periodicity of the rankings, as evidenced by the fact that during the first years of the ATP ranking the lists were published with periodicity variable and irregular, sometimes more, sometimes less, which speaks well that the development of the lists not only was not a fixed pattern, but this depended on purely internal aspects of resources and organization, and not sporting criteria aspects.
Neither seems very solid the argument of “rewrite the history “. It means that if tomorrow appear documents, remains or evidence that will affect our understanding of the history should we discard them to not change anything? If appeared a pyramid with the mummy of an unknown Pharaoh should we ignore such a revelation? This premise is that, to the perplexity of chroniclers and historians, seems to postulate Mr Kermode.
And finally one may wonder how it is possible that a group of fans, such as, for example, the tennisbase team can develop a ranking under a unique mathematical model system since 1877 (TB rankings) while the ATP, with all his means and power, seem unable to rebuild a few lists of the years 70 and 80, which would contribute to all tennis fans. It is understandable that the ATP gives priority to manage the huge business which has at hands, but it would be desirable that also paid due attention to the beautiful history of the sport. In the end, the bright tennis present also relies on the legacy that many players have forged and many fans have made with their exploits.
The fact is that Vilas, for now, is still not officially recognized as number one. The legendary argentine tennis player has no luck with the rankings. If in 1975 he did not get the distinction, despite having won it technically, in 1977 also missed the opportunity despite having completed a campaign that crowns him as a real number one “moral” of the circuit.
About 1977, it is essential to remember Ion Tiriac statements on the matter, when he called the ranking of 1977 “like the most unfair thing in tennis”. Nothing more, nothing less.
And he was right. The Argentine ran a season for which any qualifying falls short. Better let speak the data:
-134 official victories (137 according to the study of Puppo-Ciulpan), absolute record of ATP victories in a season, 15 more than the next mark of Ilie Nastase in 1973
-16 titles, ATP titles record in a season, ahead of Ilie Nastase, Jimmy Connors and Ivan Lendl
– 22 finals, also absolute record in ATP finals in a season
Winner of Roland Garros, US Open, finalist in Australia and a balance of six victories, no defeats in Davis Cup single. A dream season
However, unfortunately for Vilas, the rankings at that time, still immature and far from the efficiency and coherence of the current, there were not based on the sum of points, but in the average points per tournament. Connors, who even did not make one of his best seasons, played fewer tournaments and finally he obtained a better average, although he could not raise any Grand Slam title. The results of “Jimbo” were significantly lower than the Vilas. With any system of points, even introducing restrictions on number of valid ranking tournaments, the Argentinean would have been number one in the world. Of course, TB ranking gives him the global leadership, with wide lead over Connors, who, in turn, narrowly beats Bjorn Borg.
Either way, it is only a moral achievement. Good or bad, the rankings were those which were. Not always the best is the number one in the ranking, a circumstance that has occurred in tennis and other sports.
Different is the case of 1975 where the obstinate position of the ATP prevents enrich his history and do justice to one of his greatest champions. Certainly in thetennisbase we consider Vilas a number one with all of the law, and of course, it is not in our intention to rewrite the history. We only intend to help to reveal it.
Gabriel Garcia / www.thetennisbase.com