In many ways, Jean Robert Borotra fit the image of the cosmopolitan Frenchman: A spectacular, debonair personality, a gallant kissing ladies' fingertips, a host of elegant parties aboard the Ile de France or at his fashionable residence in Paris.
Borotra, a right-hander (6-foot-1, 160), was spectacular, too, on the tennis court in the 1920s and early '30s. He won Wimbledon in 1924 and 1926 and was runner up in 1925 and 1927. He won the championship of France in 1924 and 1931 and the Australian title is 1928. And he was a demon in international play, one of the Four Musketeers who in 1927 broke the U.S. grip or the Davis Cup and brought it to France for the first time.
Born on Aug. 13, 1898, at Arbonne, Basque Pyrenees country near Biarritz, France, he first attracted wide attention when he played in the 1921 coveted championship in Paris. Standing out with a dramatic aggressive style of play--and with the blue beret he always wore--Borotra became known as the 'Bounding Basque from Biarritz.' His energy on the court was limitless, marked by headlong assaults and dashes for the net, both on his service and return of service, then stampede back to retrieve lobs. No player could start faster or dash so madly. His service was not a cannonball but it was not to be trifled with. His backhand return: service and backhand volley were vividly individual thrusts for the kill.
Borotra was named to France's Davis Cup team in 1922, and in 1923 he assembled with Rene Lacoste Henri Cochet, and Jacques Brugnon, a great doubles player, to form the Four Musketeers. Not only did he help the French win their first Cup in 1927, but they also held it for five years thereafter.
In the 1932 challenge round, Borotra reached heights of inspiration against the U.S. He defeated Ellsworth Vines, the winner of Wimbledon and the U.S. Championship that year. On the final day, Borotra lost the first two sets to Wilmer Allison, and with the Texan holding a fourth match point in the fifth set, Borotra second serve appeared to be out. Allison ran forward for the handshake, thinking he had won, but the linesman insisted the serve was good and play resumed. Borotra pulled out the victory and France retained the Cup.
With his dazzling performances, Borotra was popular everywhere. This included the Seventh Regiment Armory in New York, where he was in his element on the fast board courts and four times won the U.S. Indoor Championship. He was not rated quite the player that Cochet and Lacoste were, but Borotra's celebrity endured and the legs that ran like fury kept him active in tennis into his '70s as a competitor in the senior division at Wimbledon.
He was among the champions honored at the 1977 Wimbledon Centenary a year after he was enshrined with the three other Musketeers in the Hall of Fame. He was ranked in the World top ten nine straight years from 1924, No. 2 in 1926. He entered the Hall of Fame in 1976 and died July 17, 1994.
MAJOR TITLES (16) - Australian singles, 1928; French singles, 1931; Wimbledon singles, 1924, 1926; Australian doubles, 1928; French doubles, 1925, 1928, 1929, 1934, 1936, Wimbledon doubles, 1925, 1932. 1933; Australian mixed, 1928; French mixed 1927, 1934; Wimbledon mixed, 1925; US. mixed, 1926 DAVIS CUP- 1922, 1923, 1924, 1925, 1926, 1927, 1928, 1929, 1930. 1931, 1932, 1933, 1934, 1935, 1936, 1937, 1947; record: 19-12 in singles, 17-6 in doubles. SINGLES RECORD IN THE MAJORS - Australian (5-0), French (30-6), Wimbledon (55-10), US. (13-6).
- Bio Courtesy Bud Collins