The following piece was translated and slightly adapted from the original Wikipedia entry in French on William Laurentz, which can be viewed here:
William Laurentz was the brother of fellow lawn tennis player Robert Laurentz. They were the children of Auguste François Maximilien Laurentz, a journalist, and Jeanne Thérèse Laurentz (née Decock), who was Belgian by birth. William Laurentz was born in Paris and always represented France at lawn tennis, which he first began to play in Monte Carlo in 1908, before going on to take part in tournaments in the French capital.
On 16 April 1911, at the age of just 16, William Laurentz came to the fore by surprisingly defeating the Wimbledon champion, Anthony Wilding, in the final of the French Covered Court Championships in Paris, 4-6, 4-6, 6-1, 13-11, 8-6, in 2 hours and 12 minutes. The New Zealander Wilding subsequently highlighted Laurentz’s accuracy, his backhand game and his net game.
The following year, 1912, William Laurentz lost to André Gobert in the Challenge Round of the French Covered Court Championships tournament when he was forced to retire in the first set. Attempting to return a powerful service from Gobert, Laurentz hit the ball with the frame of his racket. The ball rebounded and hit him in the left eye. It took him several months to recover from his injury; when he did return to the court, it was without the full use of his left eye.
A complete player with a powerful American service, and skilful at wrong-footing his opponents, Laurentz’s main weakness was a lack of endurance. Thanks to his skill on the volley, he later adopted an offensive game. Runner-up in the men’s singles event at the French National Championships in 1912, he eventually won three titles at the same tournament: the mixed doubles in 1912 and 1913 with Daisy Speranza; and the men’s doubles in 1921 with André Gobert.
In 1920, William Laurentz won the men’s singles title at the World Hard Court Championships, held on clay in Saint-Cloud, Paris. At the same tournament in the same year he also won the men’s doubles title with André Gobert, and the mixed doubles event with Germaine Golding. In 1921, Laurentz easily won the men’s singles title at the World Covered Championships in Copenhagen, Denmark, defeating the Englishman Alfred Beamish in the final.
While attempting to defend his singles title at the World Hard Court Championships in Paris in May 1921, Laurentz was beaten in the quarter-finals by the Dane Erik Tegner after beating the Spaniard Manuel Alonso and the Italian Umberto de Morpurgo. However, Laurentz had the consolation of winning the men’s doubles title at the same tournament with André Gobert.
William Laurentz was chosen to represent France in the Davis Cup three times, in 1912, 1919 and 1921. He was one of the trio of great French champions of that era, along with Max Decugis and André Gobert.
William Laurentz married a Maria Baker in 1919 and subsequently became a contributor to the magazine La vie au grand air/Life in the open air, where he was head of the lawn tennis section. At the same time his brother, Robert, was running the daily horseracing paper Auteuil-Longchamp.
Ranked number one in France at the beginning of 1922, William Laurentz went to Saint Mortiz, Switzerland, at the end of February of that year to take part in the World Covered Court Championships tournament, where he was the defending champion in the men’s singles event. He had been suffering from the ‘flu for several days and returned prematurely to Paris, where his condition at first seemed to improve. However, he died suddenly on the morning of 7 March 1922. The exact cause of death was septicaemia.
William Laurentz was buried in Père-Lachaise cemetery in Paris.
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