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FRENCH TENNIS.

"FOUR MUSKETEERS."

Their Lost Power.

(By P. J. PERRY.)

F. J. Terry to-day discusses the down- fall of the great French tennis players, who reigned supreme for so long, and he says definitely that, willi the transfer of Henri Cochet to professionalism, it will be long before France regains her supre- macy. It will lie recalled, that Perry de- feated both Cochet and Merlin this year in the Davis Cup challenge round, and to hire has been given the credit af restoring the cup to Britain after 21 jears.

At long last the Davis Cup has left the shores of France, and, with its passing, the annual July invasion of Paris by the best tennis players in the woild has ended. For years now the Stade Roland Garros has been the scene of many exciting challenge rounds which, till this year, all ended in a French victory, and so the 15,000 persons who packed themselves like sai dines to witness tile three days of the 1933 challenge .round saw not only the games that lost the great trophy to France, but the end of the famous "Four Musketeers."

These four players-Lacoste, Borotra, Cochet, and Brugnon-had struggled nobly for years before they eventually wrested the cup from America, in Philadelphia: no less nobly did they defend it in the heart of their own country Through thick and thin they stuck together, taking defeat and victory as all true sportsmen should. They had made their country the champion tennis nation, and it held that place indisputedly for so long through their efforts. In the face of many reverses they put their backs to the wa'l and won through time and time again Any one of these players was always much more difficult to beat when he was , laying for France than when he was playing merely for himself; that was the spirit that held them together for so long and was so diflicult to break down. The first blow they received was the retirement through ill-health about three years ago of Rene Lacoste; it was immediately said, oi course, that without his active participation France would lose the cup, but this only had the effect of binding the remaining three much closer together, and so they became "The Three Musketeers," and, on his return to health and strength, Lacoste took his place at their head as non-playing captain, and again was able to inspire them with the old spirit. His knowledge of the game was Invaluable to the team, and whenever danger loomed, he was doing his bit to avert dis- aster.

BOUSSUS, THE RECRUIT.

It is history now how these three, Cochet, Borotra, and Brugnon, brought a recruit into the' . ranks-Christian Boussus, who, although he did not take an active part in Davis Cup matches, was always at hand in case of emer- gency, and played his part nobly. Like his captain, he suffered from ill-health, and that may be one reason why he never attained to the heights of his colleagues.

So they carried on; and it was not until July, 1933, that one saw the passing of these four famous "musketeers" of France. They knew,before the Davis Cup matches that the rest of their reign would be short, and they saw disaster looming when Jean Borotra found it absolutely impossible to play singles. In vain they pleaded with him. So, at the last moment, they were placed in the unenviable position of having to recruit yet another mus

keteer.

There were three candidates for that last all-important position-Boussus, Bernard, and Merlin, the last a protege of the great Henri Cochet. Boussus and Bernard had had an unfortunate season, especially as neither had been in the best of health, and It was thought inadvisable In the circumstances to play them rather than Andre Merlin, who had been playing very good tennis till then. There was very little to choose between the three, but perhaps Merlin had the greater courage for a crisis; this, maybe, had a great deal to do with his final initiation into the ranks of the great.

Thus, when we came to play France in that fateful challenge round in July, we found three of the original "musketeers," and one who had not yet been baptised in battle.

TURNED TO COCHET.

Henri Cochet was again the man to whom France turned in her hour of need, and for the first time in three years he failed her. It was just not there, and although he did his best for his country, although the spirit was still there, it was a case of bad luck at the wrong moment for France.

Brugnon played his part in the doubles as always, and this time it was Borotra who helped there, Instead oí Cochet, as in other days. To young Merlin all praise must be given for the way in which he fought in that memorable last match, when he nearly turned the tables on us. He seemed to have been inspired with that same musketeer spirit that had helped his colleagues in the past, and he all but did the trick.

Lacoste again played his part in the admir- able way in which he captained the team, but even the four "musketeers" failed for

once.

It was, Indeed, a sad blow for France when she had to relinquish her hold on the cup which she had held so long, but this was, almost completely forgotten when the great Henri Cochet decided to abandon his amateur status. With his passing went their last hope of regaining the trophy for some years. Of that there is no doubt whatever.

THE TRAGEDY OF DOMINANCE

Of the famous original four, we have now only Borotra and Brugnon, both of whom are not young. It is indeed a bitter pill for these two that, after all the years in which they defended the trophy, if they still want lo play for France, they will have to start all over again from the beginning, These men so dominated the French tennis world for six or seven years that the younger generation knew it had no chance whatever of repre- senting France In the Davis Cup, and that probably has had much to do with the fact that the reserves are not so strong in that country as they might be.

At present France has Boussus, Bernard, and Merlin, the lastnamed being the only one who Is a fully fledged "musketeer." It is amazing to think that in all the years France defended the Davis Cup, only five men actu- ally gained their spurs. France will have a good team with these three youngsters, especi- ally if Borotra and Brugnon are there to strengthen them: but at'the moment it does not look too good for France.

But one thing is certain. For years to come the name of the "four musketeers" of tennis will live It is sad to see them pass, but this is only one of the great tragedies of sport the usurpation by the young of the places held by the no-longer-young. In sport, in tennis especially, we flash meteorlike before the public eye and are acclaimed: but the ypars at last claim us, and we sink below the far horizon < The ,"four musketeers" left be- hind them a blaze of glory. They will be remembered not only for their marvellous record. ,forr their brilliant play and good sportsmanship, but for tjie manner in which they accepted defeat when it came.

(COPYRIGHT-ALL RIGHTS RESERVED I

Digitisation generously supported by
Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation
Digitisation generously supported by

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