Click on the picture to enlarge
Annoucement of the
French International
Championship, 1926.
(10) 1925-1927 : 
The French Championship 
becomes international
Version française - French version
French translation
Previous story : 1922-1926 The French Musketeers and their conquest of the Davis Cup.

Next story : 1927, France beats USA 3/2.

1924 was to be the last year that the French Championship was restricted to players that were registered with clubs in France. It was in fact the closure of another competing tournament, known as the “World” Clay Court Championships in Saint-Cloud in 1923, that had started the debate to internationalise the event. This tournament, held in the park at Saint-Cloud, had become somewhat fashionable to the Parisians who took pleasure in turning out to see the top overseas players each June. The debate was quickly decided and the French Championship opened to all comers for the first time in 1925.

The last truly French Championship of 1924 was held on the courts of Racing at the "Croix Catelan", in the Bois de Boulogne.. As might be expected, the four French Musketeers met in the semi-finals: Lacoste-Cochet and Borotra-Brugnon. Borotra was victorious in the final against Lacoste, taking the match in five sets 7/5 6/4 0/6 5/7 6/2, with a formidable display of volley play.  Jean Borotra went on to take the triple crown this year, winning the men’s doubles with Lacoste and the mixed doubles with Mademoiselle Billot. The absence of Suzanne Lenglen through illness had made the latter of these tasks a little easier than it might have been otherwise.

Jean Borotra
The first “International” French Championship of 1925 was held at the same site as the defunct World Clay Court Championships in the French Stadium in Saint-Cloud Park. The men’s final of the day was to be somewhat “déjà-vu”: Lacoste-Borotra. This time Lacoste was to emphatically take his revenge in three straight sets. Borotra-Lacoste also won again in the men’s doubles against Cochet-Brugnon. Happily, the international flavour of the rejuvenated event was marked by the Belgian Washer and the Hindou Jacob both reaching the men’s semi-finals.
In 1926 the Championship moved back to the courts at Racing and saw the return of the Americans in the form of Richards and Kinsey. This year Cochet distinguished himself in a final against Lacoste, taking the men’s singles title and his first ever major trophy. He took particular pleasure in a semi-final straight sets victory over the American Vincent Richards. Richards had beaten him at the Olympic Games final two years before.

Kinsey and Richards were to take the men’s doubles title however in two thrilling successive victories over Borotra-Lacoste and then Cochet-Brugnon. In so doing, Richards was to be the first player to win the three grand slam doubles titles: Forest Hills(1918), Wimbledon (1924) and Paris. The less well-recognised Australian title was at this stage only competed for by players travelling to the southern hemisphere to take part in the Davis Cup. Richards was quite clearly one of the greatest men’s doubles players of all time, a fact proven by his innumerable victories with Williams in the Davis Cup.

La Croix-Catelan in Boulogne
Lacoste, Borotra, Kinsey et Richards before
the double semi-final.

Front page of the prgramm, 1926

 Ad for Spalding

Ad for Panhard, and
the French Musketeers

Click on the picture
to enlarge.

The draw.

Lacoste is seeded 

Ad for Williams.

1927 is the return of the great Bill Tilden. Bill had only been to Paris once before, in 1921. He had come back this year in an act of defiance to meet the French on their own turf following their victory over the Americans at Forest Hills in 1926. The tournament had again rotated back to the magnificent French Stadium in Saint-Cloud Park. Tilden crushed Cochet in straight sets in the semi-final to find himself up against Réne Lacoste in the final. The stadium’s capacity of 5000 spectators was stretched to the limit for what was to be a legendary match. Both players were in spectacular form and played every ball to the line. Some exchanges went as far as 50 returns as they fought tooth and nail to the bitter end. 

Another photo
of the final
Click on the picture
to enlarge.
Lacoste against Tilden in the final.

After four hours and in the fifth set, Tilden lead 9/8 and 40/15. On the first of these two match points Lacoste made a clear cut winning return. The second serve however looked to be an ace by Tilden who turned to the crowd in victory only to hear the touch judge cry “fault”! The ball had brushed the line with many spectators believing it to be good. There was no incident of course, even though the touch judge who had cried out was a certain Henri Cochet. Nobody and in particular Tilden himself could possibly believe that Henri would consciously seek to take advantage for his comrade Lacoste. Whilst he showed no emotion, it did effect Bill’s concentration and he succumbed two games later on a double fault, a tragic ending for such a great server of the ball. The intensity of this great game of tennis is still revisited some 50 years later. Lacoste himself was also affected by the game. He went on to lose in the semi-final at Wimbledon against Borotra two months later, a shadow of his normal self. 

Everybody was already talking about next year and a return to the courts at Racing. The Davis Cup was not far away however and the French felt they had a reasonable chance of success this year. Thoughts were therefore starting to turn towards a more prestigious venue should such a success be forthcoming.


Previous story : 1922-1926 The French Musketeers and their conquest of the Davis Cup.
Next story : 1927, France beats USA 3/2.

Dernière mise à jour : 02 April 2002
Copyright BLANCHE NET communications.
Mars 2000.