By Vicente Muñoz
Last year I visited Mar del Plata, Argentina. While there I went to Club Nautico, the home club of four-time Grand Slam winner Guillermo Vilas. It was a chilly fall morning and the club was closed, as it normally is on Mondays, but I sweet-talked the guards into letting me take a few photographs as they worked hard on the routine maintenance of their 12 red clay courts.
The humble tennis club sits along the bay, sandwiched between the country’s largest fishing port and an imposing military base. Industrial buildings dot the horizon line, and in the summer the beaches are inundated with throngs of sun-seekers from Buenos Aires. In the 1940s and 1950s, Mar del Plata was a grand destination in the summertime, welcoming Hollywood stars and wealthy Argentines. Club Nautico was founded in 1925 and, as its name suggests, was originally a yacht club.
Through the late 1960s, a teenage Vilas trained here regularly under coach Felipe Locicero, and later in his career toggled between here and Buenos Aires. Decorating the entrance to the club is a sculpture of Vilas made by local artist Daniel Masi. Though Vilas has long left Mar del Plata for Monaco, where he resides permanently, the sculpture remains a reminder of Club Nautico and Argentina’s most famous player.