Paul Féret was born on 27 February 1901, in the family home at 4 rue Saint-Florentin in Paris. He was the son of Ernest Adrien Féret (b. 1863), a native of Calvados in Normandy and a civil servant, and Blanche Féret (née Verdier-Dufour; 1878-1912), who was from Paris.
Ernest Féret had been a receveur des finances [tax collector] for nine years when, in 1893, he was appointed chief private secretary to Minister of Finance Paul Peytral and, from 1899, occupied the same position for Pierre Baudin, Minister of Public Works. In 1902, Ernest Féret was appointed head of the secretariat, and later chief of staff for the President of the Council and Minister of the Interior, Émile Combes.
From 1906, Ernest Féret worked for Henry Chéron, Under-Secretary of State for War, and from 1909 at the Ministry of the Navy. Made a Knight of the Legion of Honour and, later, Officer of the Legion of Honour, he was also awarded the Order of Osmanieh (3rd Class). A keen lawn tennis fan, he was a member of the committee at the Racing Club de France in Paris, and also sometimes acted as a chair umpire. The Prix Ernest Féret/Ernest Féret Prize, a cross-country race organized by the Racing Club de France for schoolchildren, was created in his honour.
The holder of a degree in law, Paul Féret was in May 1925 appointed as attaché to the Ministry of Public Instruction and Fine Arts before moving to the office of the Minister of Public Works at the end of October of that year.
On 22 February 1926, in Paris, Paul Féret married Elena de Rivas (1907-26), in the presence of Senator Anatole de Monzie and Gonzalo Zaldumbide, the Ecuadorian Ambassador to Paris. After only five months of marriage, Féret’s wife died of a short illness in July 1926 at the age of only 19. Upset by this sudden occurrence, and in order not to fall into depression, Paul Féret followed the advice of his friend Suzanne Lenglen and signed a contract with the American promoter Charles C. Pyle for a four-month professional tour of the USA and Canada.
After this episode Féret worked in the banking sector and then became a company director. On 6 July 1937, in Saint-Fernand-des-Ternes catholic church in Paris, he married, secondly, Denise Frémont. Fellow lawn tennis players Jean Borotra and Pierre Gillou acted as witnesses.
Lawn tennis career
Paul Féret played competitive lawn tennis for a period of over thirty years, from the 1920s to the early 1950s. He notably reached the quarter-finals of the men’s singles event at the International French Championships in 1925 and the round of 16 four times, as well as the round of 16 at Wimbledon in 1932.
In 1925, Paul Féret played in two Davis Cup ties, with René Lacoste, Jean Borotra and Jacques Brugnon, who that year led France to the Challenge Round for the first time, where they lost to the USA. Féret played and easily won two singles matches in the preliminary rounds: against Hungary in Budapest in May and against Italy in June at the Racing Club de France in Paris.
In May 1926, Féret distinguished himself by defeating the Olympic singles champion, the American Vincent Richard, 6-2, 4-6, 16-14, during a series of matches between France and the USA. In September 1926, Féret announced his desire to turn professional in order to participate in a tour of the USA and Canada with Suzanne Lenglen who would be his mixed doubles partner, and the Americans Vincent Richards, Howard Kinsey and Harvey Snodgrass.
Paul Féret’s decision to turn professional initially caused some surprise because of his wealthy background and because he only played tennis for pleasure. At the end of 1927, he asserted his intention to be re-qualify as an amateur. On 3 December 1927, the council of the French Lawn Tennis Federation voted almost unanimously to reject this request, although Féret would be allowed to renew it five years later, in 1932.
Paul Féret thus became the first French male player to lose his amateur status by playing for money. However, he was officially reinstated as an amateur in February 1929 following a decision taken by the executive committee of the French Lawn Tennis Federation. Féret had suggested that he donate to charity all the money he had earned during his time as a professional, and this he subsequently did
Paul Féret died in Paris in February 1984, three weeks before what would have been his 83rd birthday.
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