As the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam tournament of the year, kicked off on Monday January 16, find out why a leather suitcase has made tennis history. The story does not take place in Australia but in Boston, in the United States, in 1923. Two men are strolling in a street when the youngest stops in front of a window. Seeing him eyeing a suitcase with envy, the other says to him “if you win your match, I’ll give it to you”.
The bet launcher is called Alan Muhr, captain of the French Davis Cup team. The one to whom he throws it is 19 years old and has just sent his Polytechnique preparation for a walk to devote himself entirely to tennis. His name: Rene Lacoste. He lost his match, so he didn’t win that suitcase. But an American journalist, having heard of the bet, then gave him a nickname that stuck to his style of play, tenacious, surly, who never let go: “The Alligator”. Because yes, the suitcase that René Lacoste coveted was in crocodile.
This is how the famous logo of Lacoste was born, which adopts this nickname. He asks his friend Robert George, ice hockey player and designer, to make him a crocodile which he sews on his warm-up jackets. He already has a sense of marketing. It makes the very chic and conservative world of tennis tick. And he goes a step further by breaking another code: tennis has so far been played in a shirt. He decides, to be more comfortable, to cut off the sleeves. He has just invented the polo shirt, and started his career in textiles.
Not his only invention
In 1929, with seven Grand Slam victories and two Davis Cup victories, René Lacoste retired… at the age of 25, and created the first brand in history to display his logo on his clothes. It didn’t happen before. But it’s not his only invention: the ball machine for self-training on a court, that’s him, in 1927. He was inspired by the doorbell mechanism in his house.
He is also the first to have the idea of put a grip on the handle of your racket to have a better grip, in this case at the time of the surgical plaster. And he is also the one who invents the first metal racket in 1963 whereas until now they were made of wood. Well, finally, a little riddle: who was the last player in history to have won a Grand Slam tournament with a wooden racket? Yannick Noah at Roland-Garros in 1983, 40 years ago.
>> Oh yeah? From Monday to Friday, Florian Gazan answers in one minute all the essential, existential, sometimes completely absurd questions that cross your mind. Very useful or totally useless knowledge to shine in society, absolutely incredible anecdotes to share, amazing stories to tell. And each time, you will say to yourself “Ah yeah?”. An RTL Originals podcast.