With the likes of David Schwartzman and Francisco Cerundolo currently dominating international tennis, Argentina has always produced top-ranking tennis players throughout the Open Era. In this article, we’ll be talking about the best players hailing from Argentina, and the pinnacles of tennis talent from the Open Era.
Best Male Tennis Players from Argentina
Guillermo Vilas needs no introduction. Standing at the apex of tennis in the 1970s, his notoriety rivals that of the Big Three. It is without a doubt that Guillermo Vilas’ legacy has far outlived his professional career and he will go down in tennis history as one of the best players of all time. His career can even be accredited for popularizing tennis in not only Argentina but the whole of Latin America.
Vilas was ranked no. 1 on the Grand Prix Circuit, the predecessor to the ATP Tour, thrice in 1974, 1975, and 1977. In total, he amassed 62 ATP titles, the 10th most in the Open Era, including 4 Grand Slams, year-end masters, and 9 Grand Prix Super Series.
His career is best defined by his stellar competitive matchplay, especially on clay courts. Guillermo holds the record for most matches won on clay at 659 in the Open Era. He is also the second man in the Open era to have won over 900 matches throughout his career.
Another record the Argentinian held was having the longest win streak of his time at 53 consecutive clay-courts wins. His career-high ATP ranking was achieved in 1977 when he ended the year ranked no. 2. His ranking that year however is highly debated and a legal case has been linked to it. Probably because 1977 was the year his career peaked.
Some of the highlights from Guillermo’s best year include winning the French and US Open. His win-loss record for the season stood at an astonishing 130-15 and of the 31 ATP tournaments he participated in, Guillermo won 16. He truly seemed unstoppable, accomplishing multiple winning streaks as well.
His 46 wins hard-court streak and 53 clay-court winning streaks were accompanied by his Open Era record for most clay-court wins. 1977 also saw him winning his first and only year-end Masters championship and 72 of his 73 ATP matches of the season.
Due to his proficiency in competitive play and his amazing peak years of performance, Guillermo has been heralded as one of the best by numerous publications, organizations, and independent publishers. World Tennis, Agence France-Presse and Livre d’Or du tennis 1977 ranked him the no. 1 player after his 1977 performance.
The Daily Telegraph has even ranked him the 3rd best male claycourt player of all time. He has been inaugurated into the tennis Hall of Fame and recently in 2018, Tennis Magazine ranked him as the 16th best tennis player in the Open Era. But as we mentioned previously, his ranking has been a hot topic and especially so in recent years.
In 2015, Argentinian journalist Eduardo Puppo and Romanian mathematician Marian Ciulpan concluded that Vilas should have been No. 1 in the old ATP ranking system for 1977. Despite this, the ATP Tour and its chief executive at the time have not recognized Guillermo. This eventually lead to a legal case against the tour and it is still underway to this day.
The 2020 Netflix special documentary titled “Guillermo Vilas: Settling the Score” breathed new life into the Vilas case.
Guillermo Vilas retired in 1989 and after his marriage in 2005, he had 5 children. He currently resides in Monaco and as of 2022, aged 70 he is reportedly suffering from a form of dementia.
Best Female Tennis Players from Argentina
Gabriela Beatriz Sabatini is by far the most recognizable and iconic female Argentinian tennis player. Her career isn’t defined solely by her Argentinian heritage however, she isn’t among the top WTA tennis players of all time but her permanence makes her shine in the open era.
Though she is half-Italian, Gabriela has always represented her birth country Argentina in national and international competitions. Her influence has easily outlived her professional career and she is also known for her many philanthropic and charitable projects post-retirement.
The 1980s and 1990s were the apogees of Gabriela’s career. The Argentinian procured 41 WTA titles and reached her career-high ranking of no. 3 in 1989 for both singles and doubles. Her Grand Slam performance is highly venerated, reaching 13 quarter-finals, 25 semi-finals, 5 finals, and even winning the 1990 US Open.
Apart from 1990, her best Grand Slam performance would be the 1992 season where she at least made the quarter-finals in all the tournaments. She represented team Argentina in the 1988 Seul Olympics, snatching the silver medal. Gabriela was even a former no.1 junior and has set many records throughout her career.
Sabatini holds the record for most top no.1 players defeated by a non-no. 1 in the Open Era, a total of 10 times. She is also the fifth player in the Open Era to have defeated both the mo.1 and no.2 in the same tournament. Once, in 1991, she bested 3 top 10 players in one tournament.
Sabatini has also set many Grand Slam records. one of the youngest-ever players to reach the semifinals of the French Open and she holds the third-longest streak of consecutive quarter-finals Grand Slam appearances in all of women’s tennis history at 15 tournaments.
As for her ranking, she remained in the top 10 for 508 consecutive weeks, the fourth longest duration in WTA history. Some titles she received include being named 1984 Junior World Champion by the ITF and receiving the WTA Most Improved Player Award. Her contributions towards making tennis a more mainstream sport also got her awarded the WTA Diamond Aces Award.
In 2000, she was given the Diamond Konex Award and has even been deemed the “Sportsperson of the Decade” by her home country. She was immortalized in the Tennis Hall of Fame in 2006 and recently ranked by Tennis Magazine as the 20th greatest female tennis player of the last 5 decades.
Gabriela has been able to channel her fame and influence from tennis into a successful business career. The entrepreneur has her own perfume line with Mülhens and even a children’s doll in her likeness from a collaboration with the Great American Doll Company.
She published a book and did work with UNICEF, UNESCO, and Special Olympics. For these charitable projects, Sabatini was awarded the International Club’s prestigious Jean Borotra Sportsmanship Award in 2017 and the 2018 “Athlete Role Model” title by Youth Olympic Games. ITF also presented Sabatini with its highest accolade, the Philippe Chatrier Award. In Buenos Aires stands a bronze statue of Gabriela next to other Argentinian athletes like Guillermo Vilas.
Gabriela retired in 1996 after a pulled stomach muscle injury. As of 2022, the 52-year-old entrepreneur continues to run her business and resides in Buenos Aires, Florida, and Pfaffikon.