The documentary «Settling the Score» made a lot of impact on tennis lovers and also in those who are not so linked to this sport. Many people were surprised by the great work that was done to achieve something that Vilas deserves: being recognized as number one in the world. In addition to the great work of Eduardo Puppo, journalist and tireless fighter for such recognition, a key character was seen in the series. Following a recommendation from María Luz Marín, Puppo’s wife, to add one more person to this investigation, the name of Marian Ciulpan, Romanian mathematician and programmer, arised.
But, what is the relationship between an Argentine journalist and a Romanian programmer? The answer is simple: Tennis. Despite the fact that his background is not strictly linked to this sport, Marian is the owner and creator of OpenEraRankings.com, an attractive platform that offers not only online rankings with projections according to the tournaments that are being played right now, but it also has the option to view rankings from the past. In addition to that, it has an infinite filters that make your visit more dynamic.
Ciulpan was a fundamental piece in this documentary and he very kindly attended us. He told us what it was like to work remotely with Eduardo, the feelings he had when they contacted him, if he thinks Vilas is going to be recognized and so much more.
What did you think when they contacted you to participate in this research?
I remember that moment quite fondly. I was well involved with working on a project of my own, trying to recomplete the entire Open Era rankings. This project’s actually still ongoing today, but Eduardo seemed passionate in recompleting a specific portion of the Open Era, involving Guillermo. I was initially surprised, for I had no idea how serious things were. As Eduardo started his hunt for long lost ranking documents, as I started seeing the first historical pieces of evidence, I felt the objective turning into a true quest, and Eduardo’s passion became my passion. I prepared my mind for any outcome, for I had no idea what I was about to find, but it was not a short trip.
How much did you know about Vilas before this?
I knew plenty, but I am not old enough to have seen him play, I am more of a Sampras/Agassi generation fan. But I always had a passion for tennis history, and I knew all his records. His clay title records lasted until recently, he is an amazing champion. But to be fair, I did not know before the project the length of his quest to be recognized as number 1. When I first saw the 1977 rankings, I was tempted to look there first, as his claim revolved around that period, but I knew the calculations had to be right, so they had to start from the very beginning, from Week 1 of the Computer Rankings.
Do you think he will be recognized as number one?
I honestly can’t say. I believe in our project, I truly do, the mathematics now agree with historical events, but I can’t say, I am not sure if the ATP will recognize the title in the end, I can only hope.
Were you able to meet or speak with Vilas?
Unfortunately, I never had the pleasure of meeting Guillermo, nor even to speak with him. Eduardo was my main point of contact. Vilas did send a message to me at one point, as I was getting closer to completing the calculations, and this was shown in the film completely, that is the entire scope of my communications with Guillermo. I would have loved to meet him, and I still do, the times aren’t kind enough to easily allow this to happen though. Me and Eduardo have always been mostly on opposite sides of the globe, difficult to discuss more than just online.
Was it difficult to work remotely with Puppo? Have you met him in person?
I can definitely say it wasn’t easy working remotely, exchanging emails all the time. On many occasions, we couldn’t quite understand each other properly, you know. Eduardo’s first language isn’t English, and my Spanish is not really conversational, he was sending me messages in both languages though, some of his Spanish was getting lost in translation, thus the English translated sentences were sometimes not making sense, but the message in Spanish was sometimes showing the meaning lost. I’ve always wanted to meet Eduardo, but again, the distances didn’t allow this to happen, however I’m confident we will meet at one point.
What surprised you the most about Puppo and all his research?
It must have been his determination to get the right answer. He seemed to be ready to accept if the mathematics would have shown that Vilas was not number 1. It was for him, a decisive battle. He was ready to accept the truth no matter what, but he had a feeling, as he always had, that he was right. He knew that, once the exact numbers were revealed, there was no turning back.
During this time, has there been some sort of progress in the recognition of Vilas as number 1?
I am afraid I cannot discuss this, but we are hoping that the best is yet to come. The fight is still going.
In the documentary they talk about having 7 weeks as number 1 in 1975, but they don’t say anything about 1977, which is probably the best year in terms of results, he didn’t get number 1 in that year or you just didn’t say anything? In case of reaching number 1, how many weeks?
Yes, I saw this question coming. 1977 was also Eduardo’s pick for most obvious place to look at first. But we had to redo everything and then pass through all weeks one by one. 1975 was the surprise we did not expect, 1977 was also extremely close for Guillermo, but unfortunately, the calculations only show Vilas as number 1 for the 7 weeks that were presented in the film.