This is the second in a series of examinations of tennis-related legends and whether they are true or false.
TENNIS LEGEND: René Lacoste created a line of sport apparel using a crocodile for a logo.
René Lacoste was a legendary French tennis player of the 1920s and 1930s, but however great of a tennis player he was, he was an even greater innovator of the game.
Lacoste invented the tubular tennis racket, which replaced wooden tennis rackets as the racket of choice for tennis players in the 1960s and ever since (although, of course, modern technology has replaced the original steel tubing with various other material, such as aluminum or graphite).
But Lacoste is best known as something that is fairly odd for a professional athlete to be known for (especially one such as Lacoste, who won the French Open three times, the British Open twice and Wimbledon twice – this guy was a major player) – he is known as a fashion icon!
Lacoste had developed a shirt that he wore when he was playing tennis, and his tennis shirt soon became popular enough that Lacoste co-founded a company, La Société Chemise Lacoste, just to create his tennis shirts.
Lacoste shirts are known for the logo that is sewn onto the breast of the shirt…
Now here’s the “false” aspect of the legend – that’s an alligator on the logo, not a crocodile.
Obviously, in effect, it really doesn’t matter, as alligator/crocodile, they both basically look the same, and they don’t work the name of the animal into the production of the clothes.
However, it IS an alligator, and people always refer to it as a crocodile.
As the story goes (this is the official Lacoste version of the story):
In 1927 [Lacoste] made a bet with the captain of the French Davis Cup team, after they both saw a suitcase made from alligator skin in a Boston storefront. His captain promised to buy it for [him] if he won the next day’s match for the French team. René didn’t win the match, but in reporting it one newspaper said something like: “Young Lacoste didn’t win the game or the alligator-skin suitcase, but he certainly fought like an alligator.”
And thus the name stuck!
When Lacoste died, the advertising agency that handled Lacoste accounts devoted a full-page ad to say goodbye to the man, and they wrote “See you later…,” further showing that the animal in the logo is an alligator.
TENNIS LEGEND: Frank Sedgman’s hometown had a collection to raise money to keep Sedgman from becoming a professional.
It’s hard sometimes to fully appreciate what professional tennis was like in the days before professionals competed in the major tournaments.
Nowadays, if you are a fan of a professional tennis player, you can follow him and her their whole career in the same tournaments year after year as they compete against the best of the best, so you can see guys like Roger Federer strive to win the career Grand Slam of Tennis.
That was not the case in the old days – the major tennis tournaments like the US Open and Wimbledon were amateur only.
If you became a professional, what you would do would go on tour with other professionals and just play each other, basically as an exhibition.
It’s really sort of amazing to see how long this business model lasted.
In any event, Melbourne, Australia native Frank Sedgman is one of the greatest tennis players to ever live, and in late 1951, after dominating the amateur ranks for a couple of years, decided it was time for him to turn professional.
However, his fans were distraught at the idea of losing him to professional tours, so led by Harry Hopman, a tennis journalist at the Melbourne Herald (and a devout hater of professional tennis), fans raised enough funds to purchase a gas station, then gave it to Sedgman’s fiancee!!!
Said purchase made enough money to keep Sedgman an amateur for the 1952 season. Yep, they basically PAID a guy so that he wouldn’t turn PROFESSIONAL. As Yakov Smirnoff would say, “What a country!!”
The gambit only worked for a year, though, as Sedgman became a pro in 1953 and became one of the highest paid professional tennis players in the world.
TENNIS LEGEND: Bohdan Ulihrach was suspended for taking a banned substance that was supplied by…the Association of Tennis Professionals!
In 2002, Czech tennis player Bohdan Ulihrach (who was ranked as high as 22nd in the world in 1997) was suspended by the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) for using a banned substance.
The substance was Nandrolone, an anabolic steroid.
Ulihrach had traces of the drug in his system and he was banned for two years, fined over $40,000 and lost 100 points from his world ranking.
However, in 2003, the ATP discovered that their own trainers had been giving players a supplement that contained trace elements of Nandrolone!
As a result, Ulihrach and at least seven other players, including Greg Rudsedski, had their suspensions over-ruled and their money and points returned to them.
I guess it was a bit of a case of “Physician, heal thyself!”
Okay, that’s it for this week!
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