Henri Cochet

Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by BeckerFan, Feb 25, 2007.

  1. BeckerFan

    BeckerFan Rookie

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    The more I've read, the more I've come to believe that Henri Cochet was one of the greatest and most underrated players of all time. Standing only 5'6", he won seven singles titles at the French, Wimbledon and US Championships ... and he also won many doubles titles. He was the number-one ranked amateur player from 1928-1931 according to the London 'Daily Telegraph.' He was also the only player to hold a winning record over Bill Tilden during the American's years as an amateur, though Tilden later turned this record around when both turned pro in the 1930s. By all accounts, Cochet was the greatest of the four French champions called the 'Four Musketeers' who ruled tennis in the late 1920s.

    Yet where is Cochet on our 'G.O.A.T.' lists? The video 'Kings of the Court' [1999] includes such players as Vines, Riggs, Sedgman and Hoad among its top ten, but leaves out the Frenchman. Most American players and writers leave out Cochet's name when recalling the game's all-time greats. (For example, see the thread on Ellsworth Vines's top ten list.) Some sources, however, give Cochet his due. 'The Book of Tennis Lists' [1985], by Norman Giller, includes a computer ranking that places Cochet fourth among pre-war players, after Tilden, Budge and Perry. Dan Maskell, in his book 'From Where I Sit' [1988], ranks Cochet seventh on his all-time list. Tilden said that Cochet's game was nearly perfect, and called him 'the connoisseur's player.' The great British champion Fred Perry supposedly modeled his own style after Cochet's.

    Here is a lengthy quote from Cochet that I found in Maskell's book, pp. 262-263. I include the whole thing b/c it is possibly the most fascinating first-hand account I've ever read about the history of tennis ...

    'The difference between Bill's game and mind is that he is a big man who revels in his strength but he is essentially a baseliner who has no instinctive net game. He opens his shoulders on the forehand and backhand with a very full swing and hits the ball hard. Even when he changes his style to slicing and chopping he's still brutal with the ball. He sees the possibility with his power of winning the point with the first stroke of every rally, whether service or return of service, like he did all those years ago against me at Wimbledon in the semi-final (1927) when he won the first two sets and led 5-1 in the third before he blew up. I am a much smaller man -- French, not American -- and not a violent man, so I just take my racket back and lean on the ball and try to take it early in the bounce and use the speed on my opponent's shot. I don't think tennis should be played in a state of mental and physical fury. I prefer just to be mentally and physically aware; perhaps that is why I used to win so many matches in the fifth set. It was also probably why I lost to a few players not in my class early in a tournament because their play did not stimulate me so I didn't make myself aware until it was too late.'
     
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  2. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

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    Yes, i know the books and lists of Giller and Maskell, who had firsthand experience like nobody else, playing all the old greats as pro or a coach. The one US writer, who ranked Cochet higher than Budge or Vines, was Allison Danzig, who ranked him second only to Tilden. Cochet, a former ball-boy from Lyon, was an artist, who - like McEnroe - played all his ground shots as halfvolleys. But his timing could be off and he had many bad losses, once losing 1rst round at Wimbledon and winning the plate. He was a bit of a unconscious dreamwalker without nerves, in 1927 not only beating Tilden from 0-2, 1-5 down, but also Hunter in 5 in quarters and Borotra in 5 in the final, after surviving several mps. One was thought to be a doublehit. Lacoste, the thinker on the court, had his number for a while, but after he became ill, Cochet was quite unbeatable for a while at RG. As a pro since 1933 he was over the hill, and lost many matches to Tilden or Vines and Nüsslein. Later he returned to amateur competition, and even played after WW II.
     
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  3. BeckerFan

    BeckerFan Rookie

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    I would love to see the full Danzig list if you get a chance, urban.

    One of the treasures I found at my university library was a book called 'Histoire du tennis' (1960) by Pierre Albarran and Henri Cochet. No one had checked it out in over 40 years! My French is intermediate at best, so it took me a while to get through the text, but it was filled with quite wonderful observations on all the great players through Gonzales and Hoad.
     
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  4. BeckerFan

    BeckerFan Rookie

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    Might I find Danzig's list in 'The Fireside Book of Tennis', or perhaps some other book?

    I see that one's quite a weighty tome at 1043 pages!
     
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  5. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

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    Danzig's list originated in a 1969 poll by some experts, where Tilden got 7 Nr.1votes, Budge 1 and Laver 3 Nr.1. votes. It is reproduced in 'The Encyclopedia of tennis' by Max Robertson (with Jack Kramer), London 1973/4, alongside Hopman's and Tingay's top ten:

    Danzig Hopman Tingay Maskell (1988)

    1 Tilden Tilden Tilden Laver
    2 Cochet Budge Budge Budge
    3 Budge Perry Laver Tilden
    4 Lacoste Laver Gonzalez Perry
    5 Kramer Cochet Hoad Borg
    6 Perry Lacoste Perry McEnroe
    7 Johnston Johnston Cochet Cochet
    8 Laver H.L.Doherty Wilding Borotra
    9 Vines Vines H.L.Doherty Rosewall
    10 Gonzales Gonzales W.Renshaw Connors
    Emerson Emerson

    One comment: The older tennis experts had great appreciation for the pre WW II stars. It is in line with the old boxing experts like Nat Fleischer (founder of 'The Ring'). In 1970, on the height of Ali's career, Fleischer rated Jack Johnson (round 1910) the best, followed by Jim Jeffries (1903), Bob Fitzsimmons (end 19th c.), Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Gene Tunney, Jim Corbett, Max Schmeling and Muhammad Ali.
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2007
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  6. Q&M son

    Q&M son Professional

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    Great list (sorry for old thread).:)
     
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  7. Moose Malloy

    Moose Malloy Legend

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    I just looked up Cochet's profile on the HOF website after hearing that he was down 2 sets to love & 5-1 vs Tilden in the semis of '27 Wimbledon.

    This has to be one of the most impressive runs to a major title:

    http://www.tennisfame.com/famer.aspx?pgID=867&hof_id=76
     
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  8. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    It is very impressive and dramatic. Something out of a movie but they would say that ending wouldn't happen in real life.

    Ellsworth Vines was of the opinion that Tilden used to lose to Cochet because he (Tilden) didn't play enough net and because of that Cochet could often force play with his on the rise approach shots. Who knows. The Cochet that Tilden faced was much younger than the one Vines faced.
     
    Last edited: May 15, 2009
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  9. Drob

    Drob New User

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    Early Musketeers matches?

    Does anyone have information on whether prior to 1925 Davis Cup either Cochet or Lacoste played Tilden? I know they came to the US prior to 1925 to try to meet Tilden in tourney play but in none of the books about the rivalries is there any mention of an early match(es).
     
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  10. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Cochet is one of most talented ever
    The only man Tilden ever feared
     
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  11. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne Banned

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    kiki, Tilden also feared Lacoste and Nüsslein (lost about 200 matches to the German).
     
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  12. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Lacoste and Nussein were excellent clay court players.But IMO too predictable and that Tilden could get through.But what put Tilden so nervous about Henri was his unpredictability...and the fact he seemed to have no nerves at all.
     
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  13. timnz

    timnz Hall of Fame

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    Early career

    Sometimes the young Cochet's career is forgotten. In his very early 20s he won a World Hard Court Championship and two World Covered Court Championships. He won the same number of majors as Borg (11) but isn't often talked about in discussions of the very best. I put him in as a solid tier 2 in the list of all time greats with Lendl, Connors, McEnroe etc.
     
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  14. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    Kiki,

    Bear in mind that Tilden had a major knee injury I think about 1926 or so. One of his knees (forgot which one) made a very loud noise when he ran. Tilden dominated Cochet in the pros.

    Nevertheless Cochet was a great player. Fred Perry copied Cochet's style.
     
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2014
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  15. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    I do agree with you

    Underrated great player
     
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  16. Dan L

    Dan L Professional

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    It was rumoured that Cochet's play and physical conditioning deteriorated about 1929 or shortly thereafter, due to self-indulgent lifestyle, alcoholic beverages included.

    This explains the decline in his play.

    However, he lived a long life.
     
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  17. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne Banned

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    Dan, Cochet played very well in the 1930s as pro and after WW2 as an amateur. He won his last tournament as late as 1949, the same year when Borotra won his last.
     
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  18. Drob

    Drob New User

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    Unfortunately, it was more like one of the great chokes of all time, nothing against Tilden. But see Al Laney's. Steve Flink's pr any contemporary account of the match and it is clear something strange happened to Tilden that let Cochet back into the match.
     
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  19. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Cochet was a genious avant la lettre.He was a pre Connors since he was the first top player to play flat, on he rise striking shots.First half volleyer as well.First in many things and just a character of his own.He was laid back and unmotivated but would rise to the ocassion just as easy.

    My favourite old times player without a hint of doubt.
     
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  20. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    It wasn't just one match. Cochet came back from two sets to none from Hunter, Tilden and Borotra. With Borotra I believe he was down 5-3, four match points overall, saved them all (one on a controversial double hit) and won the match!
     
    Last edited: May 11, 2014
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  21. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    A lot of the experts at the time who saw him thought he was a genius which he may very well have been.
     
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  22. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    the three mousks added a lot and complemented as a team

    Cochet, the rare genious with his mid court game
    Lacoste, the intelectual tactician with his fighting spirit and extremely consistent baseline game
    Borotra, the athletic and extroverted volleyer, the jumping basque as he was known then

    Lenglen, the prima donna who danced on court

    and Tilden was a great character as well.So was the pre Evert Helen Wills.

    Those DC matches must have been something really special.
     
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  23. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    Some info on Cochet at the 1927 Wimbledon.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1927_Wimbledon_Championships_–_Men's_Singles

    http://www.worldtennismagazine.com/archives/9346
     
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  24. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    Tilden beat Cochet in three sets in the semis of the 1927 French Championships.

    In the finals Cochet was a line judge in the match between Tilden and Lacoste.
     
    Last edited: May 12, 2014
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  25. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Cochet liked playing doubles with the savy and experienced Brugnon, who would provide with some smart, clever set ups that Cochet would finish away.

    Borotra and Lacoste used to play together, combining the steady returns and great lobs of Mr Crocodrile and the fesity S&V game and overheads of Bouncing Basque
     
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