Born in Paris in June 1905, Antoine Gentien was the eldest of the two sons of Louis Paul Ernest Gentien (b. 1877), a property owner, and Antoinette Marie Jeanne Gentien (née Gillou; 1883-1949). His mother came from a family of wealthy industrialists and was herself a lawn tennis player, as was her sister Catherine Marie Blanche Gillou, known as Katie (1887-1964), who won the women’s singles title at the early French National Championships four times – in 1904, 1905, 1906 and 1908, the latter two years under her married name of Fenwick.
Their brother, Antoine Gentien’s uncle Pierre Émile Gillou (1880-1953), also took part in lawn tennis tournaments, but is today best remembered for having captained the legendary French Four Musketeers to most of their victories in the Davis Cup in late 1920s/early 1930s. Pierre Gillou was also a co-founder of the modern International Tennis Federation and served as president of the French Tennis Federation for several years.
Coming from such a background, it is not surprising that Antoine Gentien himself also became a lawn tennis player. As a youth he honed his game on the courts of the Racing Club de France in Paris. Although he was able to practice with some of the top French players as a teenager, including Max Decugis, André Gobert et William Laurentz, Gentien would never reach quite reach their heights. The success of the four French Musketeers – Jean Borotra, Jacques Brugnon, Henri Cochet and René Lacoste – from the mid-1920s to the early 1930s left Gentien and the other male French players in the shade.
Antoine Gentien was, nevertheless, a regular participant at lawn tennis tournaments from circa 1920 to 1939 and again from 1945 to 1950. One of his best performances came at the International French Championships in 1927, when he beat Jean Borotra in the fourth round, 6-2, 9-11, 6-0, 6-4, before losing in the quarter-final round in four sets against the South African Patrick Spence.
Antoine Gentien was a good friend of the great Suzanne Lenglen and they corresponded with each other for several years. In 1949, Gentien replaced his countryman Robert Gallay as secretary general of the International Tennis Federation and remained in that post until 1961. A writer and translator, Gentien’s memoirs were published in 1953 under the title Aventures d’un joueur de tennis/Adventures of a Tennis Player.
Antoine Gentien did not marry and died in his residence at 18 rue du Sergent Bauchat in Paris in September 1968. He was laid to rest in the family’s tomb in Passy graveyard in Paris.
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