https://www.tennisworldusa.org/tennis/news/Davis_Cup/61512/davis-cup-special-192830-the-french-muskateers-golden-era/For the first Davis Cup title defence in its history, France needed a new venue. The captain Pierre Gillou met Emile Lestieur, the president of the Stade Français. His club owned the terrain of the former Stade Jean Bouin at the Porte d'Auteuil.
Lesieur, a rugby legend who scored the first for France in the Five Nations Championship, sold the concession for 20 years. The Racing Club, whose president was none other than the captain Gillou, asked Louis Faure-Dujarric, the architect who completed the Olympic Stadium for the 1924 Games, to realize the new venue.
Lestieur decided to name it to one of his friends at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales in Paris where they both graduated in 1908, who later became pioneering aviator, a fighter pilot during World War I and had a significant role in solving the problem of mounting a forward-firing machine gun on combat aircraft, His name was Roland Garros.
A friendly meeting between the French and British female national teams became the curtain raiser at the new Centre Stadium on May 18, 1928: in the first ever match there, Eileen Bennet beat Sylvia Lafaurie 64 63. France, being the Davis Cup champion, had just to play the Challenge Round against the winner of the Interzone Final between the United States and Italy.
The Americans won although they couldn't feature the biggest star of the time, Bill Tilden, accused of professionalism after publishing three articles for the San Francisco Chronicles. As Gilles Lambert detailed in his book "La légende des mousquetaires", Jean Borotra threatened to boycott the Us Championships if they shouldn't revert their decision.
France protested even with the USA ambassador in Paris, a tennis lover, and promised to invest the president of the United States Calvin Coolidge with the matter. Eventually, Tilden could play and opened the tie against René Lacoste, known as “The Crocodile,” a nickname he earned from the American press after he reportedly made a bet with the French Davis Cup captain.
The Frenchman, as the profile in the Hall of Fame website noted, embraced the name, saying, “the nickname highlighted by tenacity on the tennis courts, never giving up my prey.” But Tilden used his variety to destabilize the Crocodile.
As our Jovica Ilic detailed, Henri Cochet, the son of a groundskeeper at a Lyon tennis club, who always played in short-sleeved white shirt and long white pants, despite his touch and timing came down by a set and a break against Hennessey who began over-confident and began to over-hit.
Cochet, a five-time French Open champion in his career, placed a streak of half-volley return winners, regained the control of the match and won 6-0 in the fourth. Gillou has to decide what doubles team oppose to the Americans, depending on their opponent's choices.
Tilden came back on-court to partner Hunter, so the French captain selected his best-shaped players, Borotra and Cochet. The match, split into two days after the rain forced to end play at 3-2 in the first set on Saturday, reached an extraordinary intensity in the fifth set.
Borotra, the Bounding Basque, showed all his trick that brought Tilden to define him, in his 1948 autobiography, “the god of galleries and devil of the players.” France won 6-2 in the fifth and led 2-1 before the reversed singles.
Cochet was incredibly inspired against Tilden, who would suffer just his second Davis Cup defeat ever. Two years later, in the same venue, the “Ball Boy of Lyon” established as a world-renowned player as he transformed the half-volley into a form of art to beat Tilden in the French Open final.
The American remained perplexed, befuddled by Cochet’s acrobatics on-court that afternoon. Due to declining health, overly preoccupied also that his efforts could prejudice his incoming marriage with the golfer Simone Thione de la Chaune, Lacoste wound down his playing career in 1929, forming his clothing brand four years later.
Again Jean Borotra and Bill Tilden threatened not to play. Again they both took part in the Challenge Round. The Basque played a solid match against George Lott who served hard, lobbed him constantly but lacked enough strength to counter the opponent's swift moves, according to the New York Times.
He won in four sets. Cochet gave Tilden the most crushing defeat of his international career as he won 6-3 6-1 6-2. The combination of his qualities outplayed the American ace in every department of the game and dazzled the 12,000 spectators at the Stade Roland Garros that gave Cochet an enthusiastic ovation when the match was over.
Everyone inside the stadium felt his victory had clinched the Davis Cup for France. Wilmer Allison and John Van Rhyne, the recent Wimbledon champions, easily beat Cochet and Borotra. Gillou decided to skip Brugnon, who had huge results in Australia alongside Boussus, fearing the weakness of his smash.
The two top French singles players, however, aren't used to play together, and their lack of cohesion clearly emerged in the one-sided clash as the American easily won in three sets. The Basque had an only chance to defeat Tilden in the fourth tie: he had to tire him.
Despite he displayed the form he has exhibited during the Challenge Round, his endurance broke down in the distance. He apparently considered Tilden's last shot out and made a little attempt to return it. When the umpire shouted “Game, set and match USA”, cries of protest rose from the stands.
“It just struck the edge of the baseline” Borotra admitted, “but I was finished and I didn't have the strength to try for it”. The Davis Cup destiny laid in the hands of George Lott, one of the finest doubles players in history, cunning around the net and a master tactician who would end his career with 12 major titles, and Henri Cochet, the 1929 Wimbledon champion who didn't need heroics to beat Borotra in the Championships final.
“Henri Cochet can beat everybody when his shots are working and be beaten by everybody when they are not,” said Lacoste. Lott took his opponent by surprise attacking the net at every occasion while Cochet, considered one of the greatest players that season, struck error after error.
Lott, one of one of only four players (Bobby Riggs, Mats Wilander, and Roger Federer) to win the Cincinnati Masters four times (1924, 1925, 1927, 1932), managed to force Cochet to the fourth set. The crowd applauded him and the American team intensely as the Marseillaise reverberate in the stadium for the children of the Fatherland whose day of glory arrived again, for a third straight time.
In 1930, Bill Tilden didn't play the Interzone final and just watched the United States beat Italy who had surprisingly upset Australia. He announced his presence for the Challenge Round, but just a journalist. It was one of the latest chapters of his personal war of attrition against the American federation.
In the second match Cochet nonchalantly attracted Lott in his own trap, he dictated the game with his brilliant moves and levelled at 1-1. The American captain protested and accused Arsène Le Goff, the man who supervised the courts at Roland Garros until 1958, to have watered the clay too heavily to favour the homegrown player.
Le Goff protested his innocence, but more than a doubt survived. In the doubles match, captain Gillou selected Cochet and Jacques Brugnon to face Allison and Van Ryn. Brugnon, the French National doubles finalist and singles quarterfinalist that year, had teamed with Cochet to win an Olympic Silver Medal at the 1924 Games on home soil.
The match turned into a national event, even Gaston Doumergue, the French president, was on the stands. The American couple consistently lobbed Brugnon, to attack his inconsistent smash, but Cochet remained almost faultless at net and France moved 2-1 up in four sets.
In the final day, Borotra appeared out of form against the hopeful Lott who claimed a two-sets-to-one lead. Forced to play the fifth set, Borotra found enough resources to seal it 8-6 at the second match point. Tilden lost to Cochet the dead rubber and left the Davis Cup to become a pro.
While Andre Leducq went on to win the Tour de France, a tennis era ended forever. .