It has nearly been a century since René Lacoste
made his mark on the history of Tennis.
Below you will find the major events in this
heritage handed down to us by the creator of the crocodile.
It has nearly been a century since René Lacoste
made his mark on the history of Tennis.
Below you will find the major events in this
heritage handed down to us by the creator of the crocodile.
René Lacoste was very organised and a perfectionist by nature. He would often say to his children that no matter what they did, they should make sure they did it perfectly. It is with this mindset that he played his matches. In 1921, he won his first tournament on the courts of the Tennis Club de Paris against Antoine Gentien. The 17-year old French player caught the attention of the press: "Lacoste plays a meticulous, powerful and fast game ; we have real faith in this young player", "he will be a high class player".
A world champion on the clay court from the age of 15, Suzanne Lenglen dominated the world of women's tennis for several years: between 1919 and 1926, she did not lose a single set in singles events. Influenced by this tennis "goddess" who worked wonders with flamboyant movements, René Lacoste shortened the preparation of his strokes. He concentrated on his energy and his strength, opting for more spontaneous movements; he alternated long strokes with short and cross-court strokes, imitating the tactics of Lenglen. This shift in focus produced immediate results.
It was in Boston in 1923 that René Lacoste gained the nickname "the Crocodile". During a stroll with his team captain, he passed in front of a shop window that caught his eye. Inside it was a suitcase made from alligator skin. Allan Muhr jokingly offered to buy him it if he won his match that same afternoon. Despite the fact Lacoste lost the game, a journalist from the Boston Evening Transcript, George Carens, heard of the anecdote, which inspired him to nickname Lacoste "The Alligator" in a report on the match. "Young Lacoste did not win his crocodile-skin suitcase, but he fought like a real crocodile". As René Lacoste "never gave up on his prey", it seems rather fitting...
René Lacoste wins a series of Grand Slams, both in singles and doubles.
The nickname the "Alligator" – acknowledging the tenacity, power and consistency with which René Lacoste played on the courts – spreads rapidly. The player’s friend Robert George embroiders the animal onto the white shirts he wears when walking out onto the courts.
A perfectionist and resolutely inventive, René Lacoste constantly adjusted his own tennis rackets to make them more efficient and comfortable. In the 1920s, he began to cover the handles of his rackets with surgical tape which he imported from the United States in entire rolls, to make them easier to use. This unique idea was very quickly copied by others... The tennis ball-pitching machine designed and created by René Lacoste initially served to meet a personal requirement: to be able to train independently and improve his overheads. But very quickly, as of 1930, he set about mass producing this machine under licence with the Dunlop company. The "LACOSTE machine" would train generations of players to come, enabling them to continue to play their favourite sport without an opponent. The tennis ball-pitching machine is greatly representative of the inventions of René Lacoste: far from being purely theoretical, they always meet a practical requirement and strive for real perfection. This is how the ideas of the Crocodile revolutionised the sport which will forever remember his name: tennis.
The Davis Cup had hardly ended and been celebrated when the US Open began. In the stands was Simone Thion de la Chaume; a tennis enthusiast and an assiduous spectator, she was a major golf champion and the first French woman to win the British Ladies Amateur Golf Championship, one of the most prestigious women's golf tournaments. Family legend claims that the tactical changes made by René Lacoste came from his desire to impress Simone Thion de la Chaume, who he met around the same time. After several days' rest, René Lacoste returned to France on board the SS Île-de-France liner. By a happy and perhaps welcomed coincidence, Simone Thion de la Chaume was also on board. A mutual liking developed between the two champions, who married in Saint-Jean-de-Luz in 1930. Two years earlier, Simone Thion de la Chaume's father had opened the Chantaco Golf Club, created for her family and friends in the French Basque Country. Quickly becoming a very popular place bringing together artists and sports personalities and a real breeding-ground for new talent in French golf, Chantaco would see René and SImone Lacoste's four children grow up here. Their only daughter, Catherine Lacoste, would also become a major golf champion: the youngest player and the first French woman to win the Women's US Open in 1967.
René Lacoste wrote and published his first book, Tennis, through the Grasset publishers in 1928, in which he gives lots of technical advice. Experiencing immediate success, it was translated into numerous languages and became bedside reading for an entire generation of tennis players. In 1981, René Lacoste would relive the experience when publishing his second work, Plaisir du tennis (the pleasure of tennis), mainly based on his memories rather than tennis technique.
Following the victory of the Four Musketeers, defending the Davis Cup became a national cause and so a brand new stadium was built in the space of nine months to host the rematch between the French and the Americans in 1928. Situated in Paris, on the edge of the Bois du Boulogne, the new complex would sport the name of Roland-Garros, a successful sportsman and a pioneer in aviation who died for France in 1918. Witnessing the feat of the Musketeers who held onto the silver bowl for five years, the stadium has also hosted the French Open along with true championships in the world of tennis on its clay courts.
René Lacoste won the first match against William Johnston in three sets, during which time Henri Cochet lost against Bill Tilden. The next day, Jean Borotra and Jacques Brugnon lost again in a doubles match against Bill Tilden and Francis Hunter. However, on the third day, victory was theirs; René Lacoste beat "Big Bill" and Henri Cochet prevailed over William Johnston. The French rejoiced! René Lacoste thanked his three comrades in the modest manner for which he was so well known: "It's Cochet, Borotra and Brugnon you should congratulate ; they've been tiring Tilden out for two days ; I owe my success to them".
But it is also important to highlight the winner's tactics. Like during his winning match in Saint-Cloud at the French Open, in May-June 1927, René Lacoste successfully beat Bill Tilden by constantly sending him soft balls through the centre of the court that were slightly short, forcing his opponent into wide exchanges and preventing him from making major attacks from different angles. His analysis of the American's tactics played a major role in his win.
This victory holds a special place in the history of French tennis and rendered René Lacoste a real living legend. Between 1924 and 1932, the French played tournament after tournament, managing to maintain their performance over time. Thanks to them, journalists and spectators alike experienced intense competitions. For six consecutive years, between 1924 and 1929, the Four Musketeers occupied Wimbledon's central court, fighting to win in the final of the prestigious English tournament. These years represented the golden age of French tennis.
From the Four Musketeers, history will also take with it the image of a team brought together by the values of sport and a friendship that would benefit training and tournaments. Each of the Musketeers had their own technique, their own personality, and above all worked towards their own personal victory, but they all shared undeniable talent and great strength of character. René Lacoste summed up the challenges that brought them together on the court as "a fight that is fratricidal but always loyal and joyful". Fair play, the players overcame set-backs and "camaraderie prevailed irrespective of the nature of the battle".
It was for personal use that René Lacoste would create his collection of shirts. According to Lacoste himself, it was to "help him to stand the heat better on the American courts". At that time, the LACOSTE shirt was white with short sleeves and "rib trimming" , with ventilated mesh, and it was comfortable and perfectly absorbed sweat. The "jersey petit piqué" (the name he gave to the cotton weave jersey) would become symbolic of the brand. The creations of René Lacoste would soon create a sensation on the courts. The French Tennis Federation even found some of the skin-tight items of clothing somewhat indecent!
In 1933, René Lacoste and André Gillier, the founder of one of the oldest and biggest hosiery businesses in Troyes, launched the shirt designed by René Lacoste. Known as the "12.12", it constituted a real revolution for tennis players and fashion alike: its supple and light ventilated mesh enabled the skin to breathe while guaranteeing freedom of movement. The "petit piqué" (the name he gave to the cotton weave style of the jersey) and the short sleeves made the L.12.12 incredibly comfortable for the time. Going against the opinions of his friends who tried to dissuade him from doing so, René Lacoste chose to sign each product with his emblem by embroidering a crocodile on their bust in order to guarantee their elegance, quality and authenticity. This marked both the birth of a new category of clothing (the polo shirt), the logo, something that no-one had done before, and a new, visionary way of communicating: each of these little green crocodiles worn by a famous champion, actor, personality or simply a member of the public, turned into an advertisement for his brand.
In 1961, the former champion unveiled one of his brilliant inventions: the metal racket. This would completely transform the way tennis was played… René Lacoste had been working on this idea since 1931: by using metal instead of wood, the racket would be made a lot more resilient and would spectacularly improve how balls were hit. The L.38.607 patent which would be all important in the history of tennis was registered on 30th March 1961 and described a "system involving strings fixed to a metal frame". Bringing to an end the undisputed supremacy of wood used in the manufacturing of rackets, this new approach marked a significant technological turning point: featuring a round-shaped head and a double shaft, the metal racket differed from the former design in that it balanced out the weight at both extremities. Its aerodynamism and its manoeuvrability enabled the player to focus their hitting power behind the ball. The result: lightning-fast and amazingly efficient strokes, but also optimal energy restoration thanks to low aerodynamic resistance. Pierre Darmon, the undisputed no.1 French player at the time, agreed to try out the metal racket and worked with René Lacoste for several weeks. He was the first player in the world to use it in an international competition; on the central court at Wimbledon in 1963. A licensing contract was signed with Wilson and the racket invented by René Lacoste was set to see great commercial success: in the space of approximately ten years, more than six million of them were sold around the world by Wilson, under the name T2000, and a few hundred thousand of them by La Chemise LACOSTE. Widely distributed in the United States, the T2000 helped win forty six Grand Slam tournament titles between 1966 and 1978 and was used by some of the most famous players in the world, including Jimmy Connors.
René Lacoste invented a shoe especially designed to be worn on the tennis court. With his experience as a champion and his knowledge of the game, he made an upper that was especially designed with this sport in mind. Equipped with a reinforced section on the forefoot, an area that experiences major friction, made from a unique cotton chevron canvas, and with ventilation holes and a vulcanised sole, René Lacoste's shoe was the perfect answer to players' needs when it came to the kind of comfort, lightness and resistance required for playing high-level tennis. In the middle of the 1960s, the very specific characteristics of "Le Soulier LACOSTE" made them one of the most popular models among tennis players.
Between the middle of the 1960s and the end of the 1980s, René Lacoste registered more than twenty new patents. Among them were diagonal strings, a plastic tennis racket handle, new types of resistant strings and even the "Damper", a polyurethane piece situated at the extremity of the handle of the racket. Designed to absorb vibrations while increasing the precision and speed of balls, this device was developed by René Lacoste with the help of his son François in 1974. This also quickly became a standard for manufacturers and tennis players all around the world.
Fabrice Santoro is an intense and atypical player, reputed for holding the racket in two hands, giving him added precision, but also for his ability to play spectacular tennis. During his more than twenty-year professional career (between 1989 and 2010), he won six singles tournaments including the Dubai Open in 2002. But it was in doubles that Fabrice Santoro really excelled himself, constituting a major attribute to various teams. He won 24 titles including a Davis Cup in 2001 with the French Team, two Grand Slams in Melbourne in 2003 and 2004, as well as the ATP World Tour alongside his compatriot Michaël Llodra.
René Lacoste started working on a new model of racket, which would combine the advantages of small and large beams. Like the former metal racket, the "Équijet" racket, due to its performances, was of crucial importance in the evolution of tennis. In 1991, equipped with this model, Guy Forget reached his highest world ranking (4th) and gave France a Davis Cup win; this was a triumphant reminder of the feat of the Four Musketeers that day in September 1927. When speaking of his invention, René Lacoste later explained, "I wanted to give back to tennis what it gave to me". This invention was therefore a wonderful tribute to the sport to which he dedicated his life.
Fifty-nine years after the Four Musketeers' final victory, the French Team, sponsored by LACOSTE and notably including Guy Forget and Henri Leconte, beat the United States to win the Davis Cup. Thanks to this founding victory, the French players were reunited with success and contributed to giving a new impetus to French sport in general.
At the beginning of the millenium, the famous tennis shoe was rediscovered in the LACOSTE archives. Despite its age and its very basic and natural design, it was still resolutely modern. The brand therefore decided to relaunch the model as a special edition. A year later, newly baptised the "La René Lacoste", the shoe was produced in new colours and with new motifs and was incorporated within the various LACOSTE collections. Today, the "René Lacoste" is constantly being reinvented. While respecting the original design, it has been modified to complement a sporty, chic or even vintage style.
Throughout his life, René Lacoste constantly worked to share his passion for sport with others, striving to provide opportunities for young players and often following the progress of individual players personally. Created in 2006, the major ambition of the René Lacoste Foundation is to help young people to improve their lives through sport, and since then has supported and funded projects all over the world. It perfectly keeps with René Lacoste's spirit of sharing and aims to pass on the values he so strongly believed in: team spirit, motivation, surpassing oneself, and competitiveness while respecting the opponent.
On the occasion of its 75th birthday, the crocodile brand created an advertising campaign that mirrored its mentality: a harmonious mix of heritage and innovation, it combined elegance and the Avant Garde. In a projection of what tennis would be like in 2083, LACOSTE imagined moves that had never been seen before, new equipment and a new way of training, and even new rules to the game. The strings of the future racket appear as an unbreakable electromagnetic field that guarantees great control, while the innovative shoes offer better grip, better control of ball trajectories and boast an immaculate design.
Mats Wilander had a remarkable career. Much to the surprise of the general public, he won Roland-Garros in 1982 at the age of 17 (at the time, he held the record for being the youngest player ever to have won a Grand Slam tournament) having only played professionally for a year. In 1983, he catapulted to fourth best player in the world in the ATP rankings and remained among the ten best players until 1988, when he became tennis world champion. During this period, he set impressive records: he won three tournaments at Roland-Garros (1982, 1985, 1988), three Australian Opens (1983, 1984, 1988), and one US Open in 1988. What's more, the Swedish team he played for won the Davis Cup on three occasions, in 1984, 1985 and 1987.
Born in 1982, Andy Roddick began his professional career in 2000. At the age of only 18, he was the youngest player to reach the top 200, reaching the quarter final of the US Open and winning his first three titles after only a year of playing professionally. Renowed for his excellent serves (he holds the record for the fastest serve in history, at a speed of 155mph), Andy Roddick is an incredibly talented player: he became world no.1 at the age of 21 and is one of only four players in the world to have hit more than 1,000 aces in one season. In Miami, he beat Czech player Tomas Berdych and took away the trophy from the city where he won one of his first ever matches.
Today, Roland-Garros is one of the most prestigious Grand Slam tournaments. The official (and first) sponsor of the tournament since 1971, LACOSTE has been present at the victories of numerous champions. In forty years, no less than two winners and six finalists have worn the famous crocodile. The historic connection between Roland-Garros and LACOSTE dates back to 1928, when the stadium was built to defend the Davis Cup won by the Four Musketeers, who shared the same sporting spirit. On the court, they strived to bring together performance and elegance, refinement and ease. On the occasion of forty years of partnership between the two, LACOSTE created limited edition polo shirts and t-shirts and organised a special event that lasted a fortnight: the statues of the Musketeers were dressed in the famous L.12.12 LACOSTE polo shirts.
RL meaning René Lacoste and 12 referring to the L.12.12 polo shirt, the name RL12 also paid homage to the RL07 racket invented by René Lacoste in 1963. It combines traditional know-how with sophisticated current creative processes, aiming to update the way in which modern rackets are manufactured. It is made from graphites and several types of wood chosen for their specific qualities: resilience, comfort, and ability to absorb vibration. Equipped with research & development tools, the LACOSTE Lab would bring the crocodile brand into modernity. It aimed to identify products that could represent the future of the brand, while researching new materials and new designs. The RL12 racket and the LACOSTE Lab have brought new focus to the tradition of invention and innovation in a way that is in keeping with the genetic code of LACOSTE. They illustrate the natural connection between the brand's history, its past and its future. They thus contribute to the brand's durability and put the finishing touches to its timelessness.