1922 – the World Cup in Brussels ended. Huge headlines in newspapers: “There has never been anything like this before!” What happened? The sensational success of French tennis: five victories in the finals, five league titles won by representatives of one country!
In men’s singles, 21-year-old Henri Cochet defeated Spaniard Manuel de Gomar in five sets. Suzanne Lenglen literally tore the American Elizabeth Ryan – 6: 3, 6: 2. Caucher and Jean Borotra became the winners among male couples, Länglen and Raine among women, and, finally, Länglen and Caucher won the mixed title.
The year 1922 marks the emergence of a new wave of French tennis: the star of Rene Lacoste begins to sparkle at major international tournaments, while Jean Borotra, Henri Cochet and Jacques Brugnon still dominate the French championship. Musketeers – such a name by analogy with the heroes of Alexander Dumas received this magnificent four. They were destined to write wonderful pages in the history of world tennis. Their names have become a legend. Who are these musketeers?
Henri Kaucher (1901-1987)
Caricature Henri Kauche
French Men’s Singles Championship … Final meetings are underway … But what is it? The audience, watching the game of two leading tennis players Gober and Samazail, leaves the stands and moves to the next court: there was a rumor that there are two young players nearby who challenge the victory in the so-called criterion – the “Hope” tournament and that there is a rare heat fight. Soon the stands of the central court were empty, and the audience gathered around the grids of the auxiliary platform and … were not mistaken. What a brilliant match! Of course, in the game the young men had many mistakes, technical defects, but how much passion, excitement was put into the drawing of each ball! Unified – and only – tactics: forward, quickly forward, to take a place at the grid! And what a speed! An unforgettable match between Koshe and Borotra. The victory in five sets was won by Henri Kaucher (in the subsequent, he defeated his opponent and friend more than once). Here’s how Koshe moved in the national classification of players: 1920 (he is 19 years old) – player of the 2-series, 1921 – No. 5 in the 1st series, 1922 – No. 1.
… Henri Cochet was throwing balls at the Lyon tennis club and was taking his first steps there as a player. And in 1922, he won three world titles on the courts of Brussels: in singles, in doubles with Jean Borotra and mixed with Susanne Langlen. Shortly thereafter, the young world champion as part of the national team participates in the Davis Cup. In a meeting with the Australians, he brings the French team a single point, worthily completing his first international season.
Bill Tilden, a powerful American athlete who was now considered one of the strongest players in the history of world tennis, reigned on the courts of that time. Defeating Tilden was the main goal of Koshe. At one of the tournaments, trying to experiment with punches, Caucher lost several matches. To the question: “Why did you play so badly?” He replied that he was working on strikes to defeat Tilden. Such a response of a young player, who was aiming at the Big Bill itself, testified, at least, to a deep faith in one’s own strength. Henry gave several years to adjusting his game, and his efforts were crowned with success. In 1926, he won the Big Bill for the first time and soon achieved what he had never lost to him.
In 1924, in the finals of the Olympic Games, Henri Caucher was inferior in the fifth set to American Vinnie Richards. However, that match was a demonstration of the Frenchman’s amazing progress over two years. He learned a lot from his defeat and in 1926 took revenge, defeating Richards in the French championship – 3: 0. In the Wimbledon finals, Henri Cochet loses in five sets of Lacoste (0: 3)., But in Forest Hill, two months later, for the first time defeats Tilden in the quarterfinals of the US Championship.
And here is 1927. Koshe in the Wimbledon semifinal against an angry Tilden who did not miss the chance to announce that he would take revenge. The American really shows a high class and, having won the first two sets, leads in the third – 5: 1 and 30: 0. But here Kochet demonstrated, perhaps, his most valuable quality: the ability to accurately play the most important, most intense moments of the match. Outwardly, as if nothing had changed: the same rhythm, the same beats. But, calm and focused, he unravels all the intentions of the opponent. The American does not manage to create a situation for winning a point. Henry himself uses the slightest inaccuracy of the opponent to go to the net and finish the ball with a blow from the summer. And the unbelievable thing happens: Bill, who is just the complete master of the situation, is worried, is taking a futile risk, and now the score is getting 5: 5. Kochet wins 17 (!) Points in a row without losing a single one.