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René Lacoste: the rackets of the great inventor

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Lthe brand that he wears alligator For almost a century, it has been celebrating the six decades since the start of the metal racket revolution and the 40th anniversary of its wooden model. are also met now 100 years since René Lacoste’s competition debut as a tennis player, in which we will focus because it constitutes the genesis not only of his brand, but of other particularities.

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To define a person as versatile as he is tenacious, we will stick to a mythical phrase of his: “¡Inventor! It is the profession that I would put on my business card. I’ve been inventing all my life.” And boy did he invent.

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René was a special guy born at the dawn of the 20th century into a business family. His father Jean Jules represented the Barcelona car brand Hispanic Swiss. His link with the racket sport is born, as in many, by hitting a ball against a wall; but, essentially, it has its origin accidentally, when as a cadet he accompanied his father on a business trip to London and was able to watch tennis being played on a court.

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Jean-Jules sent René to learn English in the British capital, albeit armed with a good racket, believing that the practice of tennis he would introduce his son to society and he speaks Saxon; however, Lacoste junior only returned in love with the sport and three years later he made his debut in a tournament in Normandy and in Wimbledon; to, the following year, make his debut with the French Davis Cup team.

As he was only a sports lover, not one gifted for it, René perfected his discreet game based on instructing himself through books of technique of tennis and observing the movements of other players; yes, benefited by his natural intuition and creativity. He perfected his blows by procuring training that he carried out even at night inside the rooms and, in this way, he improved ostensibly.

Roberto Ortega, a classic
Roberto Ortega, a classic

Not happy with the training sessions he did, together with other French tennis players, and with the

rhythm that I needed, Lacoste devised and patented a ball launching machine, manufactured by Dunlop, to gain in stroke quality and mobility. And René reached the top of world tennis, winning grand slam tournaments -except Australia- and the Davis cup on two occasions; but one tuberculosis took him out of sports practice.

Later, he assumed the captaincy of the French team in the Davis Cup and entered history as the most famous of the four musketeers at Roland Garros, also largely due to the creation of the crocodile brand. And this is another story.

Patent for the ball-throwing machine designed by René Lacoste
Patent for the ball-throwing machine designed by René Lacoste

It seems that, on one of his team trips to the United States, René -at the age of 19- fell in love with a crocodile skin suitcase displayed in a shop window. Such was her attraction that the team captain promised her if she won. Rene didn’t win the item, but he did set the target. Barely three years later, René already associated with the image of the great reptile by his companions and some journalist -of sharp ear-, he asked the stylist and friend Robert George to embroider crocodiles on his blazers. And six years later, the legendary reptile found its way onto the left chest of the first sports polo shirts.

To achieve this, Lacoste had already traced another concept of dress, adapted to the athlete and not the other way around; breaking with the conventional clothing of those 20’s, giving shape to the polo shirt. He also made a foray into the aeronautical sector, as a young entrepreneur.

Photo: Control Wooden Racket

But let’s go back to the inventions of tennis and those derived from the Lacoste label. Always in pursuit of perfecting the game, René, as he did with the ball-throwing machine, collected what he studied about the sport of the racket in his work ‘Tennis‘, which became a bedside book to win games; and he indulged in molding, or surgical tape, the grip of his racket to increase feel and comfort.

Among the dozens of patents that he registered there were several from the tennis scene, constituting the true revolution steel racket which premiered at the beginning of the 60s; that is, six decades after René devised the concept.

Photo: Lacoste RG LT-301

Lacoste: From the pioneering metallic to the modern LT20, passing through the exclusive LT12

The RL07 Lacoste Metal Racket It appeared in 1961 to change, and lighten, the way of playing tennis. Steel chassis with a striking system of metal rings to hold the strings, which ran through the hoop of the rounded head. That metal made possible greater endurance of the throat or neck, which contributed to reduce vibrations, while the head conferred greater power and control with respect to the wood.

However, paradoxes of life, the jewel lasted a short time in the hands of the crocodile seal with little relevance, until Wilson acquired the patent and launched the T-2000truly recognized and best-selling, with which Jimmy Connors He added great victories during three decades except, curiously, on the land of Paris.

Foto: Lacoste LT – 330, LT345

Despite the metal invention, the French company did not escape the trend of manufacturing in wood, which reigned until the mid-1980s; and produced between 1982 and 1985 his Control Wooden Racket made of laminated wood and with the colors of the French tricolor flag. Lacoste’s concerns were reproduced at the end of the 1980s, when the LT 301 and followed by LT 302 Equijet Racket en 1988.

Already built with graphite typical of the time, these models, which presented the Equisysteme patent, combined the advantages of smaller and larger strings, exhibiting a peculiar head deformation at its equator, at 3 and 9 o’clock. Guy Forget used this unique racket and won the Davis Cup with it (together with Henri Leconte) in 1991.

Foto. Lacoste LT – 12l.

The brand’s entry into the 1990s was less conspicuous, to the naked eye. The new LT production line appeared on the market. The LT345 It was made of graphite and fiberglass and looked in an elegant pearly white, and the LT330 (there was still one LT340 more competitive and somewhat heavier) made of graphite, kevlar and fiberglass in a very green French company.

These series, with a 16-19 string pattern, provided the patented system Accelero-Damper, another of René Lacoste’s original geniuses in search of the best absorption and comfort in the punch, working on the cushioning from the grip (visible system on the grip cap).

In the spring of 2015, the crocodile firm once again exhibited its elegance and exclusivity by launching the limited edition LT12 (each racket was numbered), which was only accessed by 650 people on the planet. It was a beautiful piece, with a hybrid concept as it was built by three types of wood: walnut, basswood and balsa, and graphite high modulus, such as the one used in aeronautics. So the wood (70%) ensured a certain comfort and distinction, as well as cushioning in combination with the graphite (30%), which also provided power and control.

Each piece was crafted by hand in Albertville, once René Lacoste’s longtime collaborator Alain Welshand renowned ski craftsman Alain Zanco They gave shape to a project that took almost three years and that became a jewel that, inspired by René himself and the Musketeers, tried Roland Garros winners like Mats Wilander and Gustav kuerten.

The exclusive hybrid LT12 could be purchased for half a thousand euros. Finally, once Lacoste acquired the 80% stake in the company Major Sports, parent company that owns Tecnifibre (founded in 1971), in the fall of 2017; the crocodile brand has returned to a racket chassis.

With design starting from the Tecnifibre headquarters in Feucherolles, Lacoste has put its latest model on the market in 2021 L20, in two versions, differentiated by weight and colours. The L20 is a 100-inch (645 cm2) head racket with a weight of 290 grams that is characterized by a careful and elegant aestheticsbut, above all, for its stiffness, its balance (31.5 cm) and for the particular open 16×19 string pattern, with a greater density of strings in the center of the head than on the sides, which increases the sweet spot of striking and control, as well as power, minimizing errors.

The characteristic damping system also affects its comfort and handling. Damper which, based on the technology devised by René, includes, in the elastomer that intervenes in the grip, a light weight of just over 25 grams to benefit the comfort of hitting from the best absorption of the impact. The light version or L20L changes in the predominance of white in its paint, in the weight of 275 grams and in the balance of 32.5 cm.

for the tennis player Robert Ortegacollaborator in this report, the L20 “is a racket that offers control, that does not move when hitting the ball and that takes good spin. The effectiveness of that original damping system is noticeable, especially in

the heavier L20, because it moves less”.


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