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In this year of grace France leads the lawn-tennis world. She is in front not because of her plant or organization or because her lawn-tennis votaries exceed in number those of other countries. Her ascendancy is measured in skill and ardor as tested on the championship court, and in that indefinable quality which is called personality. The Davis Cup, symbol of international supremacy, is in her possession; her players hold the championships of England, America, and Australia, the three oldest lawn-tennis countries. The record is at once sweeping and suggestive, a record for which there must be a psychological reason, for very few foresaw its advent five years ago.

John Stuart Mill has said that genius can only breathe in an atmosphere of freedom. Can it be doubted that the exaltation of spirit which came to France after the Great War an exaltation which only a land thrice invaded by a neighbor could experience - radiated through the field of sport? 'Be advised, young men, and whilst the morning shines, gather the flowers.'

Yet we must go back further than the cataclysm of 1914-18 to trace the evolution of France in lawn tennis. The royal and ancient game of tennis court tennis, that is may have

had its original root in Persia; it was pursued in France centuries ago. A prototype of tennis, handball, or longue paume, as it was called in the Middle Ages, was played in France


in the parks and fosses of the châteaux, in any uncovered arena that could be found suitable for the purpose. Did not Louis X die from a chill caught while playing in the forest of Vincennes in 1316? Was not Charles IX, when not campaigning or in action, always playing la paume, of which he was a devotee? Longue paume may have faded since there was last an enclosure for it in the Luxembourg Gardens; the appeal of its principles remains, its application to the French character is as insistent as ever. We know that long before Jean Borotra became famous the Basque provinces produced pelota players, whose quickness of foot and hand and surety of aim with the schista were the envy of Europe. No one etymological research may have solved satisfactorily the exact derivation of the word 'tennis.' Several professors of philology assert it had a French origin.

There are no tennis lawns in France; the game, which was founded on British turf, has been pursued on immutable wood or terre battue. Therefore it is called tennis in France, although out of chivalry to English-speaking creators the federated governing body, which has its headquarters in Paris, is called the International Lawn Tennis Federation. The French players of distinction were incubated under the roof of the Tennis Club de Paris at Auteuil. It was to this almost original shrine of the game in Paris that a sturdy band of British pilgrims made an annual visit at Easter time, just before and just after the birth of the new century.

Most of these invaders came from Queen's Club, London. They were true disciples of the game in that they studied strokes and tactics, and cared as much for the stern and level friendly battle as for the tournament tie for which a prize was awarded. Nor were they exponents of any stereotyped style; among them were players of distinctive methods which, when they were observed in practice by the French, helped to propagate the variety and versatility of lawn tennis. Among them was Mr. George Simond, now the best-known referee on the continent, a player of tactical skill who often played with, and against, the Dohertys; Mr. G. A. Caridia, the prince of halfvolleyers, who not only took the ball on its rise, but took it immediately it had left the ground; Mr. M. J. G. Ritchie, an All-Comers' winner at Wimbledon, who has beaten Mr. H. L. Doherty on a covered court, as he has also beaten Mr. Beals Wright in America — a veteran who, despite his fifty-odd years, can still hit the ball into the right place with the right stroke; the late H. S. Mahony, the genial Irishman, who used to cross the Channel with no heavier luggage than a pair of odd shoes which he borrowed from the dressing-room attendant at Queen's; and one or two other kindred spirits. These English visitors, because of their courtcraft, were able to win most of the events in the first decade, but all the time, with cumulative strength, they were firing the zest of youthful France. The brothers Vacherot I believe, was the first T. C. P. champion had easy styles that reflected the natural grace of France; but the first Frenchman to make an international mark was Max Decugis, who had been to an English school and absorbed, some time before he was champion, the atmosphere of the game. When Decugis, at the age of fifteen,


had won the Renshaw cup for the boys' championships at Queen's Club, at twenty-one or thereabouts the first international tournament at Auteuil, and three years later the Olympic medal at Athens, the star of France was definitely in the ascendant. Decugis had both personality and wit, and both were useful to him in match play. Not that victory can be achieved by words used on court, although sometimes an ejaculation will so enlist the sympathy of the crowd as to buoy up the speaker in his moment of peril; it was his conversation in the lawn-tennis community which exercised a subtle influence over many of his opponents. They may have felt that this quick-witted Frenchman was seeing through them; he rarely wrapped up his remarks in complimentary verbiage. When the play began, those of weaker character felt that this man might impose his will, and, since he possessed the strokes to provide a free and forceful game, the psychological advantage was material.

Max Decugis may not have been the father of French lawn tennis in the sense that Dr. James Dwight was its parent in America; he was the first Frenchman to unglove his fist on the tennis court. His successors were a brilliant line of champions, each borrowing something from the past decade, each gaining in championship mettle by the wider vogue of the game, and the increasing competition which it offered. The war cut athwart André Gobert's career when he was in his prime. He was still a great player after it, but his dangerous experiences as an aviator included a fall the English lines, by the way, where he encountered tennis friends that nearly brought death and inflicted internal injuries. Gobert was coveredcourt champion of France, as of England, for several years; as a server and a volleyer, supported by a great height

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and a great reach, he was almost unplayable at his best.

I saw him achieve many of his triumphs; two are salient in my memory. They followed each other in the spring of 1912. In the first, the Frenchman was defending his title of English covered-court champion against the challenge of Anthony Wilding, who was then holder of the world's grass-court title. Wilding had not lost a set on the way through; it seemed likely that he would regain the title for Britain. And so he would have done if Gobert had not displayed, at the crisis of a grim struggle, a genius of stroke play that was irresistible. Wilding had won the first two sets and gone to 3/1 in the third when, by a fatal damping of his fires, he encouraged Gobert to make one supreme effort. The holder carried the third and fourth sets by as brilliant a display of service and volleying as was ever seen at Queen's; he traveled serenely to 4/0 in the final set. But the end was not yet. With splendid spirit and concentration the New Zealander pulled up to 4/4. Those who thought they knew Gobert visualized his defeat; they forgot that every French player has mercury in his mind. Gobert served the ninth game as well as he served any game; he won it and the next, and the match and his title were safe. At Stockholm, a week later, the Olympic crown was his by unanimous vote; he won both singles and doubles. It remained for an English base-line player, F. G. Lowe, to strike the sternest blow against him. Lowe won two sets and nearly a third. Wilding had been beaten by C. P. Dixon, whom Gobert, rising to the greatest heights, defeated in the final.

These matches were under cover; rain, wind, or sun could not affect the flight of the ball or the sighting of it by the player. In the open country, at Wimbledon or St. Cloud, though he

would have his brilliant periods, Gobert was never quite the same force. Two months after he had dominated the Olympic tournament at Stockholm he met Gore on the centre court of the old Wimbledon in the final of the AllComers' singles. His eclipse at the hand of the veteran, who was then exactly twice the age of his adversary, was almost a tragedy. With an initial lead, gained by volleying, Gobert had retreated to the base line, thinking he could hold his man in any position. He never recovered from his disillusionment, and at the end Gore was his master. After the war Gobert still won titles, but his days of glory began to wane, reviving, however, when he won the amateur golf championship of France.


Space will not permit me to set out in detail the careers of the French champions who have taken up the mantle of Decugis and Gobert. The late William Laurentz- he was of Belgian descent and had a physique which could not stand the strain of continuous match play — was a beautiful volleyer. I umpired a Davis Cup match which he played against Tilden at Eastbourne in 1920. When Laurentz had won the first set by a burst of dazzling net play, the great American, realizing that he was in for a stern fight, had to change his tactics and chop slyly to the feet of his opponent.

Of the moderns, I rank Lacoste and Borotra above Cochet, although the smallest of the three has won undying fame at Wimbledon and was the first European to defeat Tilden in the American championship. It is not that Cochet cannot rise to heights of brilliant adventure when all seems lost; that virtue the French have all cultivated, inspired by the example of their compatriots. But I do not consider

that Cochet's ground-stroke equipment is as sound as Lacoste's, or that he possesses the dash and élan of Borotra, which, when the physical penalty is most severe, can yet bring him victory. René Lacoste, twice champion of America, is a living example of what application and persistency can achieve. As a boy he was never robust; you would never have imagined that he would have survived five grueling sets under a fierce midsummer sun. His conquest of the game was long and arduous, even though he is still a young man. He toiled while others rested; he was ever the patient apprentice, studying every tactic, polishing every stroke. It is said that he has an index folio recording the weak and strong points in the equipment of every international player. Like a sea captain navigating strange waters, he examined his chart before every match of importance. By this means he avoided many rocks. The voyage might be tempestuous; he reached harbor serenely. Lacoste has made good entirely by his own efforts; his character is a fine one; he is a worthy champion of America as of France.

Jean Borotra comes of very different stock. Bred in the Basque country, he has the volatile nature of its uplands. Dauntless before danger, whether it be on a lawn-tennis court or in an aeroplane, or even when he is late for some social or business engagement, he will take every conceivable risk; yet his buoyancy and optimism will win through. His defeat on successive days of Vincent Richards and W. M. Johnston in the American championship of 1926 and both his adversaries were favored by the quidnuncs to winwas but one of his many brilliant exploits in big events. He has won at Wimbledon twice, and but for cruel fortune should have won again last year. He invades Australia and con

quers the Commonwealth both on the court and off. While the Australian championship is in progress he spends two nights in the train; yet he wins all three national events, though separated from defeat by only a few points.

He and Jacques Brugnon, with Christian Boussus also a member of the team, have just concluded a world tour. They have been popular everywhere, in Buenos Aires as in Wellington, in Melbourne as in Johannesburg. They have not escaped defeat in individual matches; as a team they have only lost one test, and that was on landing at Durban after a long sea voyage. It was an innovation for Frenchmen to travel round the world armed with tennis rackets. Englishmen had done so and so had Americans, but this was the first organized mission of nonEnglish-speaking players. That in Australia alone the invaders should have enriched the treasury of the Australian Lawn Tennis Association to the extent of $80,000, permitting the tourists to receive $17,500, the maximum sum arranged to cover their expenses, is a striking tribute to the popularity of M. Borotra and his comrades. Like Cæsar, they came, saw, and conquered.

France was eminently fortunate in her leader. No better ambassador, expressing the courage and vivacity of his race, could have been chosen. M. Borotra was a source of perennial inspiration to his team, and since his social charms were marked, and his wit as a speaker ingratiating, he made an ideal captain. Good captains are as valuable in sport as in industry or war; and the leadership of France in lawn tennis has been constructed to a large extent on mental equipment.

One must not forget the influence of Mlle. Lenglen on the rising fortunes of France. Her name became a household word long before France won the Davis

Cup or her male players triumphed at Wimbledon or Forest Hills. She was the first Gallic invader to win a singles title at Wimbledon, and she won it at the age of twenty under dramatic circumstances, with the King and Queen and packed galleries in attendance, snatching victory from defeat, proving to the world at large that France possessed the will to conquer. Her successive triumphs on the centre court, each more conducive than the last, emphasized this truth. They did more; it was demonstrated to the Continental invader, bred on a non-turf surface, that the grass plane permitted the best expression of a refined art. Fluency of footwork, at which the French excel, reveled in the lighter and easier tread, the softer carpet for swift toe work. The delicate volley, the application of check or slice, the strokes that satisfied finesse rather than force - these were better displayed on green and yielding turf.

If the influence of Suzanne Lenglen on French psychology was striking and permanent, so were the methods by which she achieved success. They were orthodox methods, those of past masters, like the Dohertys. There was nothing transitory or freakish about her stroke action; the style was easy, without effort. Had Mlle. Lenglen been a specialist in one stroke, rather than the mistress of all strokes, she would not have left such a deep imprint on the game. The fact that her repertoire was complete left no opening for the dissenting voice. She became a standard by which the play of others could be judged. Incidentally, she revolutionized the deportment of women on court. Instead of the conventional stride she made the hurdler's leap. This characteristic was born in her childhood years. She could not run like the adult; she had to jump. Her style became moulded on the new

mobility; it was a style that made a servant of acrobatics, a style that introduced a new cult. The advent of this cult synchronized with the emancipatory ardor experienced by women of all nations after the World War. They discarded their primness, their reserve of motion, as they discarded their long skirts. Mlle. Lenglen was French, but her example was world-wide. She may not participate again in competitive lawn tennis, although she is still comparatively young; that fact will not lower her position in the annals of the game. The French ascendancy dates from her first championship; the wide development of women's lawn tennis throughout the world has followed it.

The French owe much to their organizers. It is always difficult, in the direction of sport, to mix new blood with old. Without this diffusion there is a risk of a too arrogant conservatism, of old players, now out of harness, failing to keep step with the new steeds. That they should give the benefit of their ripe experience in counsel is indispensable; but any autocracy in sport is fatal, for young people who play games thrive on the direct encouragement of those who have achieved deeds in the sight of the juniors. The old champion cannot inspire the young unless he is companionable, unless he can talk the language of youth. The French would seem to have realized this truth. They have incorporated young men into their controlling body. Their clubs are organized with a view to tending budding talent. The athlete is not lost in the lawn-tennis player; there is a running-and-jumping track in addition to the courts. Do not imagine that athleticism has to be imposed on the French; the sport is there to be cultivated. The Government wisely nurses it, for there is no better antidote to communism than a healthy ambition to excel in sport.

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