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Henri Cochet

Born 14 December 1901 in Villeurbanne (France), died 1 April 1987 in Saint-Germain-en-Laye (France)

He became a hero in 1927 when, along with his friends and compatriots René Lacoste, Jean Borotra and Jacques Brugnon, he defeated the United States in the final of the Davis Cup. By the time that the Roland-Garros stadium – a symbol of and reward for their success – was inaugurated a year later, Henri Cochet had risen to the status of best player in the world. Having won the French Championships – a forerunner to what we now know – as early as 1922, he again tasted victory in 1926 at the second ever French Internationals, and underlined his superiority on three further occasions, in 1928 (the year that the tournament moved to the Porte d’Auteuil), 1930 and 1932. Legend has it that the 1930 final against Bill Tilden caused traffic jams stretching all the way back to the Seine! Around the stadium, 4,000 cars were looking for a place to park, and while the police found themselves overrun, so did Big Bill, who fell in four sets (3-6, 8-6, 6-3, 6-1). It was, according to the Auto-Journal, "without a doubt the finest tennis ever seen in Paris".

The remarkable record that Cochet had over the seemingly indestructible Tilden was of course one of the main reasons behind France’s rich vein of success in the Davis Cup between 1927 –1932. Indeed, the sight of Cochet at Roland-Garros usually meant that the venerable Salad Bowl was preparing to spend another year in France. On 26 July 1929, a year before the now legendary final mentioned above, Cochet had already had the crowd in peals of laughter as he seemed to cast a spell on his American rival in a 6-3, 6-1, 6-2 rout. "That day, I felt as if I had been transported into another world," he said. "I was gliding around Centre Court with no effort at all." Of the 12 Davis Cup singles rubbers he played at Roland-Garros, Cochet won 11. He also formed a doubles team with Jacques Brugnon which racked up three points in four matches. Three times he had the honour and the pleasure of securing the winning point for the team. In 1928, with the paint on the stadium not yet dry, he was even chaired off-court on the shoulders of the crowd after match point.

Having regained his amateur status during the Second World War, he took part in the French Championships which was the replacement tournament held during the Occupation. But once peace had returned to France, even though he was still among the best in the country at the age of almost 45, he refused to play in the French Internationals again, leaving his won-lost ratio at an incredible 90.9%.

Henri Cochet’s record at Roland-Garros:

• 40 wins, four defeats.
• Four titles (1926, 1928, 1930 and 1932) and one final (1933). Henri Cochet also won two titles at Wimbledon (1927 and 1929) and one at Forest Hills (1928).
• Eight participations (the first in 1925, the last in 1933, the year that he turned professional)
• 31 matches played on Centre Court (the first in 1928, in the Round of 16 against Francis Hunter).
• Notable wins over René Lacoste (1926 and 1928 finals), Jean Borotra (semi-finals in 1928), Bill Tilden (1930 final).