Learn about Life in the 1920s

France Triumphant in Tennis - 1927

AT last the French tennis players have captured the Davis Cup. And, so despatches tell us, French daily journals in headlines echo: "At Last."

It has been a well-planned and long-fought campaign on the part of the French. They deserved the victory they won. For years they have been perfecting their game and have with patience and persistence entered tournament after tournament. There was a time not many years ago when Americans and British alike regarded the French as incapable of becoming respected competitors in athletic sports. France seemed to lack the atmosphere of sportsmen. Indeed, an American amateur sportsman wrote in The Outlook in 1911 that the men of the European Continent got on one's nerves because they were not manly enough to be good sports, that they were likely to be "lily-livered." Though he mentioned the Germans and Austrians especially, he made no exception of the French. He would have to make an exception of the French now. It is a Frenchman, Cochet, that, winning at Wimbledon in England, holds the premier position among amateur tennis players in the world. It is another Frenchman, La Coste, that has for this past year held the National Championship here both of indoor tennis and of lawn tennis on the turf. And now Cochet and La Coste, representatives of France in the singles, and Borotra and Brugnon, representatives of France in the doubles, have captured the international tennis trophy, the Davis Cup.

Photo of Davis Cup Teams
The members of the two teams shown are, from left to right, R. Norris Williams, Rene La Coste, Francis T. Hunter, Jacques Brugnon, William Johnson, William T. Tilden, Henri Cochet, Charles Garland, non-playing American captain, and Jean Borotra. Secretary Davis stands in the center of the group

There has been nothing meteoric in the rise of the French players. For four years they have held the English singles and in 1925 and 1926 they held the English doubles championship. Two years ago Jean Borotra was American indoor champion in the singles and with Asthalter won the indoor doubles championship. And last year, having won the finals in the European tournament, the French beat the Japanese in the inter-zone contest and were only beaten in the challenge round for the Davis Cup by the American team, Tilden, Johnston, Williams, and Richards.

Photo of two Davis Cup Players
Rene La Coste & Bill Tilden after their Davis Cup match

On September 8 there began the ending of America's supremacy in international tennis. Although William Tilden beat Cochet in a hard-fought four-set match, La Coste overwhelmed William Johnston in three sets. The next day the American doubles team, Tilden and Hunter, won the doubles match against Borotra and Brugnon; but on Saturday Tilden fell before La Coste, and Johnston, in spite of a rally that carried the match to four sets, was conquered by Cochet.

It is generally believed that with this defeat the star of the popular, game, and sportsmanlike William Johnston has set. Indeed it looks very much as if the future of American tennis would have to be entrusted to the hands of younger men than those who formed the Davis Cup team this year.

Though the loss of the Davis Cup is bewailed by those who regret to see its passing to a nation where championship tennis is played not on turf but on clay, the transfer of tennis supremacy across the Atlantic will not be without benefit to the game. In an international contest in which over a score of nations participated, seven years is quite long enough for any one nation successively to hold the championship title. The United States was last beaten in 1919, when the finals were won by Australasia against the British. Now, moreover, younger men can compete nerved with hope that was remote as long as the veterans were supreme.

William Johnston's Record

  • National singles champion, 1915, 1919.
  • Runner-up 1916, 1920, 1922, 1923, 1924, 1925.
  • National doubles champion with C. J. Griffin, 1915, 1916, 1920.
  • Runner-up with C. J. Griffin, 1919.
  • National Mixed Doubles Championship with Miss Mary K. Browne, 1921.
  • National Clay Court Championship singles and (with Samuel Hardy) doubles, 1919.
  • Winner of the Longwood Bowl, 1913, 1916, 1919, 1920, 1921.
  • Pacific Coast singles champion, 1913, 1914, 1916, 1917, 1919, 1921, 1922, 1925, 1926.
  • Pacific Coast doubles champion with C. J. Griffin, 1914, 1915, 1925.
  • English champion, 1923.
  • On victorious Davis Cup Team, 1920, 1921, 1922, 1923, 1924, 1925, 1926.
  • On defeated Davis Cup Team, 1927.

Source: Outlook, September 21, 1927