Denied The Number 1 Spot
Regarded by many as the most successful South American tennis player of all time, Guillermo Vilas was undoubtedly a big talent in his prime. He won 50 matches in a row and was obsessed with becoming number 1 in the world rankings. And as we soon come to learn, he absolutely should have been.
Determined to uncover the truth and change the official rankings, Settling The Score follows an Argentinian journalist named Eduardo Poppo who sets out to prove Vilas was robbed that top spot.
Having covered over 300 tournaments in 20 countries and with a rich history steeped in tennis, Eduardo is more than up to the task. His crusade takes him through Vilas’ past victories, collecting up all the raw data to use as evidence that the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) denied Guillermo that top spot he rightly deserved. The crux of the issue stems from significant games from the 1970’s missing from the data – and 43 previously undiscovered tapes of Guillermo himself.
With this serving as the crux of the issue here, Settling The Score essentially splits its run-time into two distinct parts. The first sees Eduardo sifting through records, checking physical items like broken tennis rackets, and sharing emails he’s been sending to the federation with raw data proving them wrong.
The other comes in the form of those aforementioned tapes, which are interspersed across this documentary. These come in two forms – audio interviews and video footage. The former is sprinkled with various archival images and animations while the latter is just shown in its rawest form.
There’s some pretty cool cutaway montages here too, with big translucent years flashing up on screen to show us progressing through Vilas’ career. There’s also another brief segment late on showing the scores for each of Vilas’ matches. Eventually though, this documentary settles down in the 1970’s where the bulk of this film takes place.
While the documentary is interesting, there’s a lot of very long establishing shots here that make this film feel longer than it actually is. At one point, there’s a good 30 second shot of Paris in 1977. Another time, we follow Eduardo in a taxi in a casual conversation. I can’t help but feel these moments unnecessarily pad out the film longer than it perhaps should be.
That’s a minor gripe though in truth to what’s otherwise a pretty enjoyable documentary. The final third of this film features some of the more interesting material, especially as newspapers and the media start putting pressure on the ATP. It’s here the documentary really comes into its own as our two separate story threads intertwine for the big climax to this story.
If you’re unaware of what happens I won’t spoil that here but suffice to say there’s an equal amount of joy and heartbreak. Tennis fans will undoubtedly get more out of this film though, especially given the cameos from some of the world’s best players.
Despite that, if you’re in the mood for a biography covering one of the best players to ever grace the tennis court, this one is well worth watching.