Annoucement of the
The French Championship
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
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.
|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.|
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
Lacoste is seeded
|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.
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.
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French Musketeers and their conquest of the Davis Cup.
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