Argentine tennis veteran Guillermo Vilas is paying as much attention to guitar strings as racket strings these days.
Vilas, 36, has been known for a decade as the poet of the clay court. His talent of putting thoughts to paper--two of his poetry books have been published--has rivalled his skill with a racket in 15 seasons on the worldwide men's circuit.
But after winning 61 career titles, including four Grand Slam events, Vilas is leaning more and more towards composing and hopes to have an album of original songs out in Spanish by next summer.
"I've got at least 60 songs written," Vilas said at a recent Nabisco Grand Prix event. "We will narrow it down to 15 for the album. If all goes well, we'll record next spring, hopefully in New York, and release the record in Argentina next summer."
But Vilas said he will still concentrate full-time on tennis for the foreseeable future.
Travelling the world circuit actually helps the creative process, according to Vilas. Song ideas come to him on the road and he translates them into music and lyrics once he gets a few spare weeks at home at Monte Carlo or Argentina.
"I don't travel with a guitar," said Vilas, who was drawn to music 10 years ago by Vitas Gerulaitis. "But writing music is a lot like writing poetry. Most poetry now ends up in songs anyway."
Vilas said the daily practice which makes for top tennis doesn't apply when he strums the guitar to come up with a song.
"If I play the guitar every day, all my songs end up sounding alike," he said. "I save the guitar for home. But I usually get a good idea once every two or three weeks on the road. I try out the melody for four or five hours a day on the guitar and record it on a four-track machine. Then I live with it for one or two weeks. If I still like it, I work on the bridge, then the words."
Vilas said the album will be produced by fellow Argentine Bernardo Bergeret, who has been working on the project recently.
"I once thought I could do everything myself," Vilas said. "But making music is hard work. I still have to come up with the exact sound. We don't have any doubts that this will be a good album."
The tennis player-musician said a successful effort could be the start of a new career.
"A lot depends on this record, it's important to make a hit," he said.
Vilas hesitated to put a label on the music he is creating.
"I like rock, but it's not me," he said. "My music is closer to, say David Bowie, softer things, something pop."
Despite speaking four languages fluently, Vilas isn't ready for straight translations of his songs into English for a go at the American and international market.
"I write concisely and work a lot on the lyrics," he said. "It sometimes takes me six months to get everything the way I want it--in Spanish. Attempting a direct translation into English would be awkward. I'd rather re-write the song, keeping the perfume of what I've said. Or I'd change the music to fit the new words."
Though recording is still half a year away at the earliest, Vilas will already hazard a guess at the album's most popular song.
"It could be 'Para y Amala, Stop and Love Her,"' he said.