René Lacoste

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
René Lacoste
Lacoste wearing his signature insignia, c. 1926
Country (sports) France
Born(1904-07-02)2 July 1904
Paris, France
Died12 October 1996(1996-10-12) (aged 92)
Saint-Jean-de-Luz, France
PlaysRight-handed (one-handed backhand)
Int. Tennis HoF1976 (member page)
Career record262–43 (85.9%)[1]
Career titles24[1]
Highest rankingNo. 1 (1926, A. Wallis Myers)
Grand Slam singles results
French OpenW (1925, 1927, 1929)
WimbledonW (1925, 1928)
US OpenW (1926, 1927)
Other tournaments
Olympic GamesQF (1924)
Grand Slam doubles results
French OpenW (1925, 1929)
WimbledonW (1925)
Grand Slam mixed doubles results
Wimbledon2R (1923)
US OpenF (1926, 1927)
Team competitions
Davis CupW (1927, 1928)
Medal record
Olympic Games
Bronze medal – third place 1924 Paris Doubles

Jean René Lacoste (2 July 1904 – 12 October 1996) was a French tennis player and businessman. He was nicknamed "the Crocodile" because of how he dealt with his opponents;[2] he is also known worldwide as the creator of the Lacoste tennis shirt, which he introduced in 1929, and eventually founded the brand and its logo in 1933.[3]

Lacoste was one of The Four Musketeers with Jean Borotra, Jacques Brugnon, and Henri Cochet, French tennis stars who dominated the game in the late 1920s and early 1930s. He won seven Grand Slam singles titles at the French, American, and British championships and was an eminent baseline player and tactician of the pre-war period. As a member of the French team, Lacoste won the Davis Cup in 1927 and 1928. Lacoste was the World No. 1 player for both 1926 and 1927.[4] He also won a bronze medal at the 1924 Summer Olympics.[5]

Tennis career[edit]

Lacoste in 1922

Lacoste started playing tennis at age 15 when he accompanied his father on a trip to England.[4][6] His first participation in a Grand Slam tournament was the 1922 Wimbledon Championships in which he lost in the first round to Pat O'Hara Wood. The following year, 1923, he reached the fourth round at Wimbledon to be narrowly defeated by Cecil Campbell, and he competed for the first time in the U.S. Championships.

His breakthrough came in 1925 when he won the singles title at the French Championships and at Wimbledon, in both cases after a victory in the final against compatriot Jean Borotra. The following year, 1926, Lacoste lost his French title after a straight-sets defeat in the final to Henri Cochet. He did not compete at Wimbledon that year, but in September he won the U.S. National Championships title against Borotra. He was ranked No. 1 for 1926 by A. Wallis Myers, tennis correspondent of The Daily Telegraph,[7] Bill Tilden,[8] Suzanne Lenglen[9] and Stanley Doust (Daily Mail).[10]

In 1927, dubbed 'The finest year in tennis history' by E. Digby Baltzell, Lacoste was part of the French team that captured the Davis Cup from the United States, ending the latter's 6-year title run. The final was played at the Germantown Cricket Club in Philadelphia and Lacoste won both his singles matches against Bill Johnston and Bill Tilden.[11][12] He played Tilden in two Grand Slam tournament finals that year and won both of them. At the French Championships he was victorious in five sets; at the U.S. National Championships he defended his title and denied Tilden his seventh U.S. title by winning in straight sets, although he survived setpoints in the first and third set and was down a break in the second.[13] At Wimbledon, Lacoste lost a five-set semifinal to Borotra.[14] He was ranked No. 1 by A. Wallis Myers,[15] Émile Deve,[16] U.S. ranking committee president,[17] Marcel Berger,[16] (L'Opinion), Jean Samazeuilh[18] (Le Miroir des sports [fr]) and Henri Cochet.[16]

In 1928 Lacoste lost his French title after a four-set loss in the final against Cochet. He took revenge by beating Cochet in the final of the Wimbledon Championships after having defeated Tilden in a five-set semifinal. The Challenge Round of the 1928 Davis Cup against the United States was played at the Stade Roland Garros in Paris on 27–29 July. The stadium was specifically constructed to host France's first defense of the Davis Cup.[19] Lacoste lost the first rubber in a five-set match to Tilden but France won the remaining rubbers to defeat the challengers 4–1 and retain the cup. Lacoste did not participate in the 1928 U.S. Championships.

Between 1923 and 1928 Lacoste played 51 Davis Cup matches for France in 26 ties and compiled a record of 32–8 in singles and 8–3 in doubles.

The only major championship Lacoste played in 1929 was the French and he won his seventh, and last, Grand Slam singles title after a tight five-set final against Jean Borotra.[20] Failing health, including respiratory disease, led to his withdrawal from competitive tennis in 1929. He would make a brief comeback at the 1932 French Championships, where he defeated reigning Wimbledon champion Sidney Wood in the third round, but lost in the fourth to Harry Lee.[21][22] He was the non-playing captain of the French Davis Cup team in 1932 and 1933.

The Four Musketeers were inducted simultaneously into the International Tennis Hall of Fame, in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1976. In his 1979 autobiography, Jack Kramer, the long-time tennis promoter and great player himself, included Lacoste in his list of the 21 greatest players of all time.[a]

In 1928 Lacoste wrote a book which he titled 'Lacoste on Tennis.' [6][23]

There are numerous explanations of why Lacoste was originally nicknamed "The Crocodile." A 2006 New York Times obituary about Lacoste's son, Bernard, provides an apparently authoritative one. In the 1920s, supposedly, Lacoste made a bet with his team captain about whether he would win a certain match. The stakes were a suitcase he had seen in a Boston store; it was made of alligator skin. Following his victory, the American press dubbed him "The Alligator."[24] Later, René Lacoste's friend Robert George embroidered a crocodile onto a blazer that Lacoste wore for his matches.[25][26]

Lacoste (right) with Otto Froitzheim

Playing style[edit]

Lacoste was primarily a baseline player who relied on control, accuracy, and deeply-placed groundstrokes to put pressure on his opponents. In addition he possessed an excellent passing shot and backhand slice. Nicknamed the 'Tennis Machine' for his methodical game and ability to avoid errors, he was known as a devoted and hard-working player, rather than a player with a great amount of natural talent.[20][27] His style was a complete contrast to that of his fellow Musketeer Henri Cochet.[13] Lacoste was a studious tactician who meticulously analysed his opponents and kept detailed notes on their strengths and weaknesses.[4][13]

Business career[edit]

In 1933, Lacoste founded La Société Chemise Lacoste with André Gillier. The company produced the tennis shirt, also known as a "polo shirt," which Lacoste often wore when he was playing; this had a crocodile (often thought to be an alligator) embroidered on the chest. In 1963, Lacoste's son Bernard took over the management of the company.

In 1961, Lacoste created an innovation in racket technology by unveiling and patenting the first tubular steel tennis racket.[21] At that time, wood rackets were the norm; the new version's strings were attached to the frame by a series of wires, which wrapped around the racket head. The steel-tube racket was stiffer, and imparted a greater force to the ball during a stroke. It was marketed in Europe under the Lacoste brand, but in the United States it was marketed by Wilson Sporting Goods. Pierre Darmon debuted the racket at Wimbledon in 1963, but it achieved critical acclaim and huge popularity as the Wilson T-2000, used by American tennis greats Billie Jean King and Jimmy Connors.[21]

When Lacoste died, the French Advertising agency Publicis, which had been managing his company's account for decades, published a print ad with the Lacoste logo and the English words "See you later...," reinforcing the idea that the animal was perhaps an alligator.

Personal life[edit]

Rene Lacoste was born to Jeanne-Marie Magdeleine Larrieu-Let and Jean-Jules Lacoste.[28] His maternal family is from Monein, in SW France, the genealogy dating back to the 1700s.[29]

On 30 June 1930 he married golfing champion Simone de la Chaume.[30] Their daughter Catherine Lacoste was a champion golfer and president of the Golf Club Chantaco, founded by her mother, at a few kilometres from Saint-Jean-de-Luz, France.

Grand Slam finals[edit]

Singles: 10 (7 titles, 3 runners-up)[edit]

Result Year Championship Surface Opponent Score
Loss 1924 Wimbledon Grass France Jean Borotra 1–6, 6–3, 1–6, 6–3, 4–6
Win 1925 French Championships Clay France Jean Borotra 7–5, 6–1, 6–4
Win 1925 Wimbledon Grass France Jean Borotra 6–3, 6–3, 4–6, 8–6
Loss 1926 French Championships Clay France Henri Cochet 2–6, 4–6, 3–6
Win 1926 US National Championships Grass France Jean Borotra 6–4, 6–0, 6–4
Win 1927 French Championships Clay United States Bill Tilden 6–4, 4–6, 5–7, 6–3, 11–9
Win 1927 US National Championships Grass United States Bill Tilden 11–9, 6–3, 11–9
Loss 1928 French Championships Clay France Henri Cochet 7–5, 3–6, 1–6, 3–6
Win 1928 Wimbledon Grass France Henri Cochet 6–1, 4–6, 6–4, 6–2
Win 1929 French Championships Clay France Jean Borotra 6–3, 2–6, 6–0, 2–6, 8–6

Doubles: 4 (3 titles, 1 runners-up)[edit]

Result Year Championship Surface Partner Opponents Score
Win 1925 French Championships Clay France Jean Borotra France Jacques Brugnon
France Henri Cochet
7–5, 4–6, 6–3, 2–6, 6–3
Win 1925 Wimbledon Grass France Jean Borotra United States John Hennessey
United States Raymond Casey
6–4, 11–9, 4–6, 1–6, 6–3
Loss 1927 French Championships Clay France Jean Borotra France Jacques Brugnon
France Henri Cochet
6–2, 2–6, 0–6, 6–1, 4–6
Win 1929 French Championships Clay France Jean Borotra France Jacques Brugnon
France Henri Cochet
6–3, 3–6, 6–3, 3–6, 8–6

Mixed doubles: 2 (2 runners-up)[edit]

Result Year Championship Surface Partner Opponents Score
Loss 1926 US Championships Grass United States Hazel Hotchkiss Wightman United States Elizabeth Ryan
France Jean Borotra
4–6, 5–7
Loss 1927 US Championships Grass United States Hazel Hotchkiss Wightman United Kingdom Eileen Bennett
France Henri Cochet
2–6, 6–0, 3–6

Performance timeline[edit]

(W) winner; (F) finalist; (SF) semifinalist; (QF) quarterfinalist; (#R) rounds 4, 3, 2, 1; (RR) round-robin stage; (Q#) qualification round; (DNQ) did not qualify; (A) absent; (NH) not held; (SR) strike rate (events won / competed); (W–L) win–loss record.

(OF) only for French club members

Tournament 1922 1923 1924 1925 1926 1927 1928 1929 1930 1931 1932 SR W–L Win %
Grand Slam tournaments
Australian Championships A A A A A A A A A A A 0 / 0 0–0
French Championships OF W F W F W A A 4R 3 / 6 29–3 90.6
Wimbledon 1R 4R F W A SF W A A A A 2 / 6 28–4 87.5
U.S. Championships A 2R QF QF W W A A A A A 2 / 5 19–3 86.4
Win–loss 0–1 4–2 9–2 16–1 10–1 17–1 12–1 5–0 3–1 7 / 17 76–10 88.4
National representation
Olympics NH QF Not held 0 / 1 3–1 75.0

All-time record[edit]

Tournament Since Record accomplished Players matched
Grand Slam 1877 Youngest player to win 2 titles at 3 Grand Slams Stands alone

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Writing in 1979, Kramer considered the best player ever to have been either Don Budge (for consistent play) or Ellsworth Vines (at the height of his game). The next four best were, chronologically, Bill Tilden, Fred Perry, Bobby Riggs, and Pancho Gonzales. After these six came the "second echelon" of Rod Laver, Lew Hoad, Ken Rosewall, Gottfried von Cramm, Ted Schroeder, Jack Crawford, Pancho Segura, Frank Sedgman, Tony Trabert, John Newcombe, Arthur Ashe, Stan Smith, Björn Borg, and Jimmy Connors. He felt unable to rank Henri Cochet and René Lacoste accurately, but he felt they were among the very best.


  1. ^ a b Garcia, Gabriel. "Rene Lacoste: Career match record". Madrid: Tennismem SL. Retrieved 7 November 2017.
  2. ^ "René Lacoste". International Tennis Hall of Fame.
  3. ^ "Lacoste, the story of an iconic brand | LACOSTE". Retrieved 2021-05-14.
  4. ^ a b c Bud Collins (2010). The Bud Collins History of Tennis (2nd ed.). [New York]: New Chapter Press. pp. 598, 599. ISBN 978-0942257700.
  5. ^ "René Lacoste". Olympedia. Retrieved 21 November 2021.
  6. ^ a b Robin Finn (14 October 1996). "Rene Lacoste Dies at 92; Gave Fashion the Alligator". The New York Times.
  7. ^ "Best Tennis Players". The Telegraph. 4 October 1926. p. 2 (City Edition) – via National Library of Australia.
  8. ^ "World's First Ten Players". New Zealand Herald. Vol. 63, no. 19499. 1926-12-01. p. 18.
  9. ^ "MLLE. LENGLEN RANKS TILDEN IN 6TH PLACE; Names Miss Wills First Among Women Players -- Lacoste Tops the Men's List". The New York Times. 1926-10-22.
  10. ^ "World's Ten Best Tennis Players: Where is Tilden to be Ranked?". The Star (Christchurch). No. 18046. 1927-01-05. p. 3.
  11. ^ "Davis Cup – 1927 Results". ITF. Retrieved 30 June 2012.
  12. ^ David J. Walsh (11 September 1927). "Two 'Bills' Fall Before French Tennis Stars". The Miami News. pp. 1, 11.
  13. ^ a b c Robertson, Max (1974). The Encyclopedia of Tennis. London: Allen & Unwin. pp. 168–169, 276. ISBN 9780047960420.
  14. ^ "Borotra beats Lacoste". Kalgoorlie Miner (WA : 1895 - 1950). WA: National Library of Australia. 2 July 1927. p. 5. Retrieved 1 April 2015.
  15. ^ "Tennis Players". The Sydney Morning Herald. 5 October 1927. p. 15 – via National Library of Australia.
  16. ^ a b c "Etude sur le classement des dix meilleurs joueurs du monde" [Study on the ranking of the ten best players in the world]. L'Auto (in French). 1927-12-02. pp. 1, 5.
  17. ^ "CUMM1NGS AND MOON". The Northern Star. Vol. 52. New South Wales, Australia. 24 March 1928. p. 9. Retrieved 28 November 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  18. ^ "Johnston Unranked: French Writer Can Find No Place for Tennis Star". The Montreal Gazette. 1927-11-04 – via
  19. ^ "History of the Stadium". Fédération française de tennis (FFT).
  20. ^ a b William Shirer (4 June 1929). "Lacoste beats Borotra; Takes 3d French title". Chicago Tribune. p. 29.
  21. ^ a b c Tom Sweetman (11 September 2014). "Rene Lacoste: The lasting legacy of 'Le Crocodile'". CNN.
  22. ^ Davidson, Owen (1970). Lawn Tennis – The Great Ones. London: Pelham Books. pp. 34–38. ISBN 9780720703801. OCLC 99470.
  23. ^ Lacoste on tennis. Worldcat. OCLC 513431.
  24. ^ "René Lacoste, the Tale of the Alligator". TechFeatured Magazine. 28 January 2017.
  25. ^ "Obituary: Bernard Lacoste, James Freedman". The New York Times. 23 March 2006.
  26. ^ "Robert George Olympic Results". Sports Reference. Archived from the original on 17 April 2020. Retrieved 10 May 2019.
  27. ^ Quist, Adrian (1984). Tennis: The Greats 1920–1960. Sydney: ABC Enterprises and William Collins. p. 38. ISBN 9780642527202. OCLC 50097790.
  28. ^ "Happy Birthday René Lacoste! | LE MAGAZINE | LACOSTE". Le Magazine.
  29. ^ "Family tree of Marie Paillé". Geneanet.
  30. ^ "Rene Lacoste, French Tennis Champion, to Take Golf Star As His Bride at Noon Monday". The Evening Independent. 13 June 1930. p. 4–A.

External links[edit]