Sporting injustices have tarnished the game throughout history, but the injustices that go under the radar are even more difficult to swallow. We all know about the Hand of God, Roy Jones Jr at the 1988 Olympics or Bloodgate in rugby union, but nobody knows of Guillermo Villas’ struggle. Until now.
Netflix’s latest sports documentary, Guillermo Villas: Settling The Score, shines a light on the issues that faced one of Argentina’s greatest exports, as he attempted to become the number one tennis player in the world. Despite winning hundreds of tournaments around the world as well as four Grand Slam titles, he never officially achieved that goal, according to those who run the sport, the Association of Tennis Players (ATP).
One of the finest tennis players of his generation, this informative documentary tells the tale of those who fought to correct the wrongs of the past on his behalf, with a sprinkling of star names. Boris Becker, Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal and Rod Laver all pay tribute to the Argentine who wowed the crowds in the mid-seventies, but never made it to number one.
Along with Jimmy Conors, Villas was the top dog of tennis, winning 50 games in a row in 1977 along with the Australian and US Open that year, yet was still kept off the number one spot. As he succinctly put it, “The number one player has always been the player who wins the most tournaments,” yet here he was being denied, time after time. He even fielded complaints to the governing body in 1975, 77 and 81, with no response.
We get to see the inside track of those who uncovered this injustice, with Argentinian journalist Eduardo Puppo leading the fight. He teamed up with Romanian Marian Ciulpan who created software that could analyse every result from the 1970’s and determine the correct world rankings, but it was the story of Evonne Goolagong that alerted Puppo to Villas’ struggle.
She was awarded the world number one spot 31 years after she held it, due to incomplete data at the time, and there were similar holes in the ATP’s calculations when looking at the men’s game. In fact, Connors ranked number one in 1975 for the 13 weeks when rankings were published, but he was also awarded the other 39 weeks of the year when no rankings were published.
This isn’t the story of Connors however, the American didn’t put a foot wrong. This is the tale of a man working day and night, attempting to right the wrongs of the past. Netflix take us on an emotional journey, featuring family, friends and Villas himself who clearly has struggled with this entire ordeal, in raw poignant scenes. Performed amid a background of statistics and data, this is a beautiful journey of friendship and struggle against the odds.