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FRANCE'S FOUR GREAT PLAYERS.
BY HENRI COCHET.
(Former world's tennis champion. Exclusive
to "Herald." Copyright.)
Cochet describes the steady French advance towards the capture of the Davis Cup. With the defeats of Tilden, the Americans began to realise the French menace to their tennis supre-
Our performances in America had aroused the greatest enthusiasm in France, and a great tennis wave swept over the country, which reached its climax when we returned' a little later, with the Davis Cup. But there were many rallies and games before that happened. I did not play very much in 1923 for I was not in the best of health and was too intent on my business at Lyons, where I was connected with the sporting goods trade.
The following year I was selected to re- present France in the Olympic Games tour- nament, when your great swimmer "Boy" Charlton astonished the world. I was not in the best of form, but managed to reach tile final, to be beaten 0-4 in the final set by the young American "Vinnle" Richards He was a fine volleyer, but his game was more like that of European players, for he was not as well equipped with ground strokes as the other Americans. I was partnered by Borotra in the doubles, but again Richards proved too good, his partner being F T
Owing to the demands of business and ill health, I did not play much in 1925. But I entered for the French championships, only to be beaten in the semi-final by W. T. Tilden. We had a great tussle, two of the sets going to 11-9 and 7-5, but Bill prevailed, only to be defeated by Rene Lacoste in the final, That was the year when outside entries were
In the following year I was at the top of my form. I started my campaign by winning the French championship. Rene Lacoste was my opponent in tue semi-final, and I beat him in straight sets. But Vinnie Richards had still to be beaten, if I were to win the title. He had, you will remember,' beaten me in the Olympic Game3, two yeais
On this occasion, however, my severity and general courtcraft had improved to such an extent that I won In straight sets. That win put me back as France's No. l again, and ensured my selection in the French Davis Cup team. We beat the Danes again at Copenhagen, and Czechoslovakia at Prague to enter the inter-zone final. '
Our successes caused a wonderful stir In France. Up to that time I had not lost a match in the series, but I dropped a rubber to T. Harada in the inter-zone final against Japan. Harada beat me fairly comfortably, though I had my revenge when Brugnon and myself beat Harada and lils partner, T, Tawara, 6-0, 6-0, 6-2 in the doubles. But I was not selected for the final singles against the United States. We lost that match by four rubbers to one, Lacoste beating Tilden by machine-like play. That was when the Americans began to realise that France would be a serious contender for the Davis Cup
before many years.
This menace to American supremacy was further emphasised by a win I had at the ex- pense of W. T. Tilden. He was champion of the United States at the time, having held sway for six years. I will never forget that match. It was played before a gallery of 10,000, and not one person gave me a chance of winning. But as I began to hold him, the crowd became tenser, for, like all people, they like to see their own representatives win. That's natural. "We are like that in Aus- tralia, too," I think I hear you say.
Tilden was a very hard man to beat. He had a remarkable game at his command, while his physical resources were magnificent. But I was at the top of my form, and adapted my game to the occasion. Tilden was alwavs very clever in the way he mixed his game. He would suddenly switch from a hard game to a soft game, then vary his shots, change his length, and try and lure an opnonent into errors. But I did so also, puzzling him by the strength and cunningness of mv resist-
You have all heard of Tilden's "cannon- ball" service. It is a terrific affair, and rarely produced unless the position Is serious for Tilden. Then bang, pouf, and the ball Is past you, unless you possess an Instinctive
sense that warns you of its arrival. I knew, . therefore, that when Tilden resorted to his "cannon-ball" service he was getting anxious, and this proved most heartening to me.
For some years pa*t I had played the ris- ing ball, and when Tilden hurled down his thunderbolts, I was fortunate eno'Jgh to be in a position to ¡iterallv crash them back at him, with such speed, that they often caught him unprepared and unbalanced after wlnd lng-up for this service, which calls for a severe physical strain.
To say that Tilden was surprised Is putting it mildly. Here was the reply to his own forlorn-hope service, as it were, forcing him into errors. Instead of giving him easy replies from which to score. I could see that lie was surprised. So were the onlookers, for they began to realise that their champion was in danger of losing his title.
So we battled hard for nearly two and a half hours, until the board showed fiyc-pll in the fifth set. and the crowd critically watching every stroke. My team-mates vere watching me, and I knew that they were play- ing every stroke. Tilden was serving, ana before I could quite realise the position. I haa
taken his service to love.
That gave me the lead 6-5, with my ser- vice to follow. Was I excited? Yes: for l knew that I had the chance of a lifetime, for no foreigner had ever beaten him In tne American championships. That last, service game of mine was never very clear to mc. i was told afterwards that I won it to love, thus winning eight vital points in ^««slon. It was a dramatic ending to a match wmen made possible the first All-French final in ti)»
history of American tennis.
Tilden took his defeat splendidly, for ti was always a good sport. The American people also gave me a great reception. J* coste was my next opponent, and nltnougn * won the first two sets he won the other turee, and then beat Borotra In the final.
The French team covered ttiemselve,. *"" glory. Borotra beat W. M. Johnston, Lacoste, who had previously defeated the Spanish player Manuel Alonzo, beat Williams, while i beat Tilden. Three Frenchmen contested in= semi-finals. . ... , _,_".- «e
Billy Johnston was a beautiful &**%??. was only a small man, but he got rema« able pace Into his drives. Borotra wore him
Manuel Alonzo was one of the most bril- liant players, and in his day could lwe beaten anyone. He was an "tacking PW« at all times, and in build resembled your.own Pat O'Hara Wood. But I alws»'j Alonzo an exhibition player andIno_» tou
nament player. He could never? m«T . ' his game on a high plane. One day irres ible, the next easy for ;anyone to beat
Brugnon and myself won the douwes Wimbledon that year while m-old mai, Borotra, won the singles. Thus m ln
vear Lacoste and Borotra had won" * . f Hills and Wimbledon respect vely and » French pair had won the doubles at «
bledon. It was evident that rranee (M rapidly becoming the tennte nation «
world. We four, Lacoste Borotra, B u& ,
and myself, had set our hearte on tn\y our j Cup-a feat never before açWevefl > ä ,
nation. How we won it will De uc . in my next article. h tl_ s
France's Davis Cup triumph «.¿ »
subject of Cachet's next article, «Wen j
appear on Saturday. ;