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RENE LACOSTE, 92, DIES; NICKNAME OF 'CROCODILE' INSPIRED POLO SHIRT LOGO

Rene Lacoste, the French tennis champion of the 1920s who transformed his nickname -- "Le Crocodile" -- into a status symbol on polo shirts around the world, has died. He was 92.

His daughter, Catherine Lacoste, said Sunday her father's heart failed Saturday while he was sleeping in a hospital in his hometown of St. Jean de Luz after surgery on a broken leg. Lacoste had been ailing for years because of prostate cancer.

Lacoste was the world's No. 1 player in 1926 and 1927 and won seven major singles titles in his career: Wimbledon twice, the U.S. Open twice and the French Open three times.

He also was the last survivor of the "Four Musketeers" of French tennis -- Lacoste, Henri Cochet, Jean Borotra and Jacques Brugnon. They won all six Wimbledon singles titles from 1924 to 1929.

But Lacoste is perhaps equally famous for creating the embroidered alligator that has adorned millions of shirts.

His nickname, "Le Crocodile," apparently came about after he admired a crocodile suitcase in a store window, and his Davis Cup captain promised to buy it for him if he won an important upcoming match. He never got the bag, but U.S. sports writers took up the name, he said, because it described his style on the court.

Lacoste did not pick up a tennis racket until he was 16. His playing career ended with a respiratory ailment at age 25, but in the intervening nine years he was recognized as perhaps tennis' greatest ground-stroker and one of its most astute tacticians.

He also perfected the metal-framed, open-throat tennis racket in 1964. And in 1925, lacking partners to improve his smash, he developed one of the first ball-lobbing machines.

He married Simone Thion de la Chaume, the first French winner of golf's British Open. They had three sons and a daughter.

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