The Royal Léopold T.C.

“The Léopold Club
was established by twelve people who met in my house in 7 Place de la  Société Civile (Square Frère Orban) on 16 February 1893.
The idea of calling it the «Leopold Club» was tabled as a mark of respect to King Léopold II.
Parc Léopold was chosen as the first sports grounds.
The Lawn Tennis Division did not be become a reality until five years later after the World Fair 1897 when we purchased a wooden  lodge which we arranged to have relocated to the sports field in Ten Bosch that we rented from Freddy Brugmann. 
Mr.Carl van der Straten Ponthoz  was the Club's first President.”

(Baron de Bassompierre: archief 'Sportimonium »: werkstuk 1893 – Valerie Loontjens- R. L.T.C. Centenary)

The Ten Bosch site comprised 15 tennis courts, 5 of which were devoted to Lawn Tennis. The lodge was purchased for F.1,000 when the World Fair ended in 1897. The membership fee was set at F20 francs per annum.

Three years later, in 1901, Mr. F. Brugmann offered the club a 7.ha. smallholding that the «Leo» uses to quite a considerable extent even today.

'The Léopold Club' became the landmark for tennis matches that, year after year, were seen to be acquiring increasingly greater prominence. Indeed, it was initially a game that had failed to elicit widespread interest and, basically, was confined to the aristocracy.

The high rate of attendance by both Belgians and foreigners at the  first international tournament in Chaussée de Waterloo as early as 1899 marked a milestone. It included the formidable Mr. Roper Barrett, one of England's three most reputable players at the time. Another famous British name on the scene was Mr. M.J.G. Ritchie. French, Dutch and Belgians completed the list. When it came to the finals, Mr. R. Barrett easily beat Mr. Paul de Borman, the Belgian champion. It was not until 1905 that Mr. Paul de Borman managed to defeat him.

Mr. Barret was primarily a specialist in doubles. From that point of view, evidence suggests there was never a more effective and sure-footed tactician. He was unpretentious in so far as there was nothing spectacular about his approach. Barrett served in such a way as to ensure that the ball landed precisely where he wanted it.
Ritchie was a “'crocodile'' whose consistency was flawless.

The annual “Whit weekend" Tournament left its mark even across the Channel (England).
These uncompromising rivalries were also a prescription for attracting high levels of attendance from among the aristocracy and where feminine elegance could equally claim its share of attention.
Much more so than is the case today, the tournaments could be said to have resembled gracious garden-parties without, however, scaling down interest in sport itself.

Mrs. Dégusis and Laurentz (France) defeated Mrs de Borman and Lammens in the Doubles' match for the Davis Cup held in the Léopold Club, Brussels in 1919.

Mr. Lammens was officially awarded the title of Belgium's Tennis Champion in 1919.

In 1922, the year of the World Championships on gravel at the Leopoldclub of Brussels was very succesful.
The organisation was held by Mr. P. de Borman and Mr. Adrien Mayer. The winner of mens' single was Mr. Henri Cochet and  the winner of ladies single was Suzanne Lenglen.

The R.L.C. is proud to have given the F.R.B.I. three Presidents, Messrs. Armand Solvay, Albert Lefebvre-Giron and Paul de Borman and numerous associates, the most distinguished were Messrs. V. de Laveley, P. Walkiers, R. Storms, W. le Maire de Warzee, E van der Straten-Pontoz, F. Husson, R. Van Gend and J. Haegeman. It is pleased to say that its commitment will continue and it will continue.
The R. Léopold Club is pleased to say that its commitment and constructive co-operation is set to continue.

P. Haegeman, Trustee

Armand Solvay

Chairman of the Belgian Lawn Tennis Federation (1902-1919)
A.Solvay, who promoted and pioneered tennis in Belgium was recognised, c. 1890, as one of our talented players.

He was among those who laid the foundations of and competed in our tournaments in the early years and it was at his instigation that the Belgian championships were launched in 1895. He formed and chaired the Championships Committee, the forerunner of our club as currently constituted.

In 1902, he pooled his interests with others to inaugurate the Belgian Lawn Tennis League that became known as the Federation in 1914. For seventeen years, he navigated its course of action with as much wisdom as sportsmanship and as much dedication as generosity.

The League’s statutes were published in “La Vie Sportive” (The Sporting Life) in the edition circulated on 11 June. (question? Naar artikel V photo). For the first time, the League decided to enrol Belgian players for the World Championships in Wimbledon, England, an event that had been a feature of life there since 1877.

The Autumn edition of “La Vie Sportive” was able, for the first time, to report that fifty-five male players and twenty-five female players had been ranked in order of merit.

The championships Committee, that continued discharging its assignments until 1902, was one of the component entities comprising the Belgian Union of Athletics Clubs, the umbrella body formed in 1895 to monitor the administration of most amateur sports clubs.
In 1904, a decision was taken to enter our team for the Davis Cup.

The imminent publication of a Yearbook was announced of which we never found the slightest trace.

In 1906, Mr. de Borman had a handbook published entitled “Lawn Tennis": a few tips in which he detailed the most intricate strokes and outlined a constructive approach to training (Price: Fr.1,50).

It could be claimed that our first international match was the most salient event to have taken place in 1907: Germany v. Belgium in Mannheim on 15 and 16 June. The Germans carried the day, scoring 14-10.

In 1908 Belgian won in the Leopold T.C. scoring 14-9.

Our champions travelled abroad and distinguished foreigners came to Ostend and the Leopold C.B. where Mr. P. de Borman defeated Mr. H. Roper Barrett, the prominent English player.

Interclubs came into existence in 1909. Matches against Holland were played from 1909 onwards and against France from 1910.

It was in 1911, the year the Brussels Exhibition was hosted, that the League could be said to have reached the summit of its glamour and prestige.
Life was leisurely and peaceful in those days; people were easygoing and sports-loving; hardship was uncommon; no-one went out of his or her way to complicate matters. The only worry was the fact that the cash box was occasionally empty, tennis had not yet begun to draw the crowds.

.New ground was broken in 1912 when an official bulletin, called “Lawn Tennis, Golf, Cricket and Hockey” was put into circulation. It was printed on glossy paper, appeared fortnightly and carried newsworthy articles and numerous photographs. This was followed by the establishment of a Tennis Code, the precise equivalent of what is currently known as the Yearbook.(cf. F.R.B.L.T archives).

Meeting at the General Assembly on 29 March 1914, the Belgian Lawn Tennis League took the form of a Federation.

The Royal Belgian Lawn Tennis Federation's Visitors Book 1902-1952

Albert Lefèbvre-Giron

Mr.Albert Lefèbvre-Giron, who took over as the Championship Committee's Treasurer in 1898
, was subsequently appointed League and thereafter Federation Treasurer from 1902-1919. He discharged these problem-fraught assignments at a time when annual income totaled a few hundred francs which meant it was often very difficult to balance the books. This did not prevent him from playing superlatively well on the tennis courts and taking part in all the tournaments from 1890 onwards. He went on to win the doubles' championships three times between 1900 and 1907 with his friend Paul de Borman and was selected as one of our national team's component members on six occasions.

Paul de Borman

Mr. Paul de Borman - nine times national champion in singles, three times in doubles and twice in mixed sets, between 1898 and 1912, and twenty four times world champion - was one of the most outstanding players that ever graced Belgium’s tennis courts. He also served as the Federation’s President with distinction and dignity and could be classified as one of the most eminent members of the International Federation. He held office on the Central Committee of the Belgian Lawn Tennis League when it was established in 1902 while the functions he discharged as foreign relations secretary bore the hallmarks that have come to be be identified with prestige.
In his capacity as a founding member of the International Federation in 1912, he continually served on his own Executive Committee and was three times voted into office as a President whose statements elicited the keenest of interest.
The invincible British team, comprising the Doherty and Riseley brothers, defeated our representatives 5-0 in the Challenge Round.

Our most famous champion in those days was P. de Borman who became an international celebrity and who, at one time, was considered one of Continental Europe’s most skilful players. He almost always restricted his movements to the back of the court where he really felt at home. He had a cutting forehand, ’put a top spin on a ball” decisively and accurately that, in turn, gave him the assurance that it would wind up wherever it suited him. His service was devastatingly effective and very disconcerting. He moved with lightening speed allied to a courage that was unquestionably dauntless.

1903 “La Vie au grand Air” Belgian players in Hombourg-les-Bains indoors; P. de Borman et W. le Maire de Warzée.

Mrs. De Borman

Mrs. De Borman, whose maiden name was Anne de Sellier de Moranville, had a very strong forehand, a steady backhand and, what was extremely rare at the time, a resolute overarm and a volley that certainly was not weak.
Her indomitable willpower ensured that she fought to the bitter end, without ever giving in.
With Max Decugis, she won the mixed doubles in the world championships in France that, until 1925 were known as the World Clay Championships.

Texten en foto's:
Visitors’Book of the Royal Lawn Tennis Federation of Belgium 1902-1952
R.C.L. 1898 - 1948 - 50 me anniversaire R. L.C. - archief 'Sportimonium'
R.L.C. centenaire - werkstuk 1893 Heuristiek : Velerie Loontjens, bijlage 9 - 'Sportimonium'
La vie au Grand Air.
The Complete Tennis Player: A. Wallis Meyers.
500j Tennis: fotos Mr. et mad. A en B de Borman 1904 – Roi des Belges.