Class of 1976
World No. 1 (1928)
Grand Slam Results
16-time major champion, 11-time finalist
Silver Medal in Men’s Singles at the 1924 Paris Olympic Games
Silver Medal in Men’s Doubles at the 1924 Paris Olympic Games (with Jacques Brugnon)
Member of the French Davis Cup Team 1922-1924, 1926-1932
Member of the French Championship Davis Cup Team 1927-1932
Overall Record: 44-14
Singles Record: 34-8
Doubles Record: 10-6
With the figurative strength of an Adonis, the 5-foot-6, 145 pound Henri Cochet helped France dominate tennis in the late 1920s and early 1930s. In his personal crusade, he won eight major singles championships and five doubles titles. As part of the fabled “Four Musketeers” (René Lacoste, Jacques Brugnon, Jean Borotra), the rangy all-courter Cochet won six straight Davis Cup championships (1927-1932), a streak that started with a 3-2 win over the United States, halting a seven year reign for the Americans.
Cochet was the son of a groundskeeper at a Lyon tennis club, which fostered his abundant skill and passion. When he retired after a 25-year career traipsing around the globe, he operated a Paris sporting goods store and taught tennis deep into his 70s.
Cochet, always adorned in his short-sleeved white shirt and long white pants, used his touch and timing to win five French titles, in 1922, 1926, 1928, 1930, and 1932. It wasn’t until 1933 when Aussie Jack Crawford defeated Cochet in the final, 8-6, 6-1, 6-3, that the major was wrestled away from the French, and in particular Cochet. In the midst of his dominance on the red clay at Roland Garros, Cochet won the Wimbledon Gentlemen Singles Championship in 1927 and 1929, and the U.S. National Men’s Singles Championship in 1928.
Known as the “Ball Boy of Lyon,” Cochet won his first French title in 1922, defeating compatriot Jean Samazeuilh in straight sets, 8-6, 6-3, 7-5. His next two championships in 1926 and 1928 where at the expense of Lacoste, and the 1930 victory firmly established Cochet as a world renowned player, as if there were little doubt. He upheld his No. 1 seeding by upending No. 2 Bill Tilden, 3-6, 8-6, 6-3, 6-1. Cochet’s game was sprinkled with flair and the spectacular; he made the half-volley an art form and his instincts often let to improbable and unorthodox play. Tilden, who rarely found opponents perplexing, was befuddled by Cochet’s acrobatics on court that afternoon.
Tilden clearly wasn’t the only opponent Cochet could defeat when wielding his magic racquet. His game was enhanced by his legendary ability to wear down his opponent and grow stronger as a match progressed. Cochet’s Wimbledon Gentlemen Singles title in 1927 belongs in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not. It magnified the intangibles Cochet brought to the court – resolve, competitive zeal, a fighter’s spirit, and a spritz of good fortune. In the quarterfinals, semifinals, and finals, he fought back from 2-1 sets down, defeating, Americans Frank Hunter, Tilden, and then Borotra to earn the championship in remarkable style. The 2-6, 4-6. 7-5, 6-4, 6-3 semifinal victory over Tilden was as monumental a comeback as the All-England Club has ever witnessed. Cochet trailed 5-1 in the third and at 15-all won 17 straight points, shocking the great Big Bill to force an extra set, which became two extra sets and a sensational upset over the No. 2 seed. Famous Wimbledon referee FR Burrow said that spectators at the All England Club were “almost too spellbound to applaud.” In the final, Cochet was down six match points against No. 3 seed Borotra and faced match point at 5-2 before he pulled off the improbable again, winning in an epic tussle, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-5.
Cochet wouldn’t need such heroics at Wimbledon in 1929, thumping Borotra to win his second championship in 1929 (6-3, 6-3, 6-4). He outlasted Hunter to win his first U.S. National Men’s Singles Championship in 1928 (4-6, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5, 6-3) and secured his last major singles victory over Italian Giorgio De Stefani at the 1932 French Championships, 6-0, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.
“Henri Cochet can beat everybody when his shots are working and be beaten by everybody when they are not,” said Lacoste, who went 1-2 against Cochet in major singles finals.
Cochet won eight major doubles titles (five in men’s doubles, three in mixed doubles), ostensibly because he created continuity with the same partner. He and fellow Four Musketeer Brugnon teamed to win the French in 1927, 1930, and 1932 and Wimbledon in 1926 and 1928. None of those titles came easily – a Cochet tennis match was always a spectacle – as only the 1928 Wimbledon and the 1930 French were earned in straight sets, but they were lengthy matches. Cochet and Brugnon won an Olympic Silver Medal at the 1924 Games played in Paris. In mixed competition, Cochet and doubles specialist Eileen Bennett Whittingstall from Great Britain won back-to-back championships at the French in 1928 and 1929 and at the U.S. Nationals in 1927.
As part of the famed Four Musketeers, Cochet cemented his legacy by winning six straight Davis Cup championships (1927-1932), all over the United States and all but the 1927 finals played at Roland Garros in Paris. In 1933, Cochet turned professional and spent six years playing on the Tilden-led tour, continuing his amateur rivalry against Tilden and Ellsworth Vines. In 1945 he applied, and was granted, reinstatement into the amateur game.
Cochet was the world’s No. 1 ranked player from 1928 through 1931.
In a fitting, and appropriate tribute, Cochet and the other three Musketeers were all inducted together into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1976.
French Championships: W 1922, 1926, 1928, 1930, 1932
Wimbledon: W 1927, 1929
U.S. Nationals: W 1928
French Championships: W 1927, 1930, 1932
Wimbledon: W 1926, 1928
U.S. Nationals: SF 1928, 1932
French Championships: W 1928, 1929
Wimbledon: SF 1930, 1932
U.S. Nationals: W 1927