Christian Boussus, as he was known, was born in March 1908 in the Mediterranean French town of Hyères, in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region. He was the eldest of the three children of Maurice René François Boussus (1877-1949), a native of the commune of Wignehies in the north of France, and Jeanne Boussus (née Lucas; 1872-1954), who was from Paris. Christian’s siblings were Roland Jacques François Boussus (1907-2000), who also took part in tennis tournaments, and Élisabeth Boussus.
Christian Boussus would become one of France’s top tennis players in the 1930s and be ranked no. 1 in France several times during that decade. He first really came to the fore outside his native country when, at the age of just 20, he reached the semi-final of the men’s singles event at Wimbledon in 1928, where he lost to his compatriot Henri Cochet. Although he would also reach the final of the men’s singles event at the French International Championships in 1931, he would never win a singles title at one of the four majors. In fact, the only major title Boussus won was the mixed doubles event at the Australian Championships in 1935 alongside the Australian Louie Bickerton.
Boussus was, nevertheless, an excellent singles player and was so highly regarded that he was chosen as a member of the French Davis Cup team in 1929, 1930, 1931, and 1932. In those four years France successfully defended the cup in the Challenge Round, but Boussus was never actually picked to play in any of the ties. Nevertheless, he was given the nickname of the Fifth Musketeer because his name was engraved on the Davis Cup trophy even though he didn’t play in any of the aforementioned Challenge Rounds.
Like most of the other male French players of the late 1920s and early 1930s, Christian Boussus was in the shadows of the famous Four Musketeers – Jean Borotra, Jacques Brugnon, Henri Cochet and René Lacoste. Boussus finally got his chance to play in a Davis cup tie in 1934, when the Four Musketeers had more or less retired. He played only singles in the Davis Cup and finished with a win loss record of 10-9.
The following article, written by the English tennis player Nigel Sharpe, provides a good description of the game of the left-handed Christian Boussus, who was still only 24 when it was published in the Straits Times newspaper on 20 March 1932:
Christian Boussus – France’s great lefthander
By Nigel Sharpe
Christian Boussus is one of the greatest left-handed players in the world. Great things are expected of him when the four musketeers retire from the game. Already he has made a mark on the tennis world. He is ranked third in France, after Cochet and Borotra, and for the past two years has been ranked in the world’s first ten.
Of medium height and build and rather slim build, he relies upon an all-round game with volleying as his forte. There is nothing of hurricane speed in his game. He takes the ball on the rise and hits his forehand with an easy swing and without too much topspin. He gets good pace in this stroke and usually relies upon it as the forerunner of a volleying campaign. Taking it as early as he does enables him to have good time to take up his position at the net.
His backhand is of the cut variety but although putting so much slice on it he does not let it stop him from hitting it pretty hard. This stroke, of course, has its limitations, as it is distinctly difficult to make good passing shots against an agile volleyer. This wing is Boussus’ chief weakness.
His volleying is very decisive – his forehand volley being a gem of a stroke. He is a complete master of this stroke and is able to make his volley down the line with great speed. This stroke is slightly reminiscent of Jean Borotra’s, but Boussus does not use his wrist quite so much.
Is service and overhead strokes are most unorthodox. He delivers his service with a bowling action and without swinging the racket behind his head at all. It is not very gainly and not very effective – the best that can be said for it is that he is able to keep the ball fairly low and to swing it away from his opponent.
Overhead he is very accurate and can place the ball more or less wherever he likes, it is also very difficult to anticipate where he is going to smash the ball owing to the peculiarity of his action.
I am quite sure that a considerable amount of success that left-handers achieve is because they are left-handed, I mean by this, that a right-hander’s best strokes usually go in his right-handed opponent’s corner but, of course, this wing becomes the forehand corner to the left-hander.
Most of the best left-handed players have possessed strong forehand drives, but very much weaker backhand strokes, and this is probably because they get more practice on this wing. Then a left-handed service can be unpleasant. One gets so little practice against it that when a left-hander is met in a tournament the service especially keeps one thinking the whole time. Many right-handed services can be taken automatically, but not so with the left-handers.
Christian Boussus first came to the front when he won the covered court meeting at Auteuil in 1926 with René Lacoste. In the following year he represented Paris versus London, and was successful in two singles. In the same year he defeated Henri Cochet at Marseilles. In the autumn he made a tour with the French team, visiting South America, Australia and South Africa. This trip did Boussus’ tennis an enormous amount of good. Playing different players in different countries under various conditions must improve one’s game and on his return to Europe a marked improvement was noted.
In 1928, Boussus reached the last four at Wimbledon, being beaten by Henri Cochet, who was in turn beaten by René Lacoste.
Always beaten by Bunny Austin
In 1929 and 1930, Boussus won the German singles championship from very strong fields. He has won a great number of prizes on the Continent as well as a few over here. Last summer he won the doubles championship of the Midlands at Edgbaston and this year he won the Hard Court Championship of Great Britain at Bournemouth in the face of the strongest home opposition.
When Bunny Austin fell to Ryuki Miki, Boussus became the favourite for the event for although Bunny always beats Boussus, the Frenchman was ranked no. 9 in the world list last year and was quite capable of defeating the rest of his English opponents. He did not have it all his own way, however, for John Olliff took him to five sets although the sets were all short ones, and then Pat Hughes played a long first set with him in the final. As Mme Simone Mathieu carried off the ladies’ singles, France had a great day.
Last year, 1931, Boussus’ tennis was rather interfered with by his army service, but now that is over and he is able to give his whole time to the game there is no reason why he should not climb to greater heights for he has an excellent temperament for the games and is still in the early twenties.
He is extremely popular wherever he goes, and will uphold the high standards set by the famous Four Musketeers of France.
According to an article that the English tennis player Fred Perry wrote for syndication in 1934, Christian Boussus was a very quiet person who could easily be mistaken for an artist. Perry also noted that Boussus was an expert in advertising, a branch of business he had studied for years. He later became a manager at IBM France.
Christian Boussus, who did not marry, had a long relationship with the French perfumer Germaine Cellier (1909-76). In an article that appeared in the August 2014 edition of French Vanity Fair, Martine Azoulai, niece of Germaine Cellier, noted the following about Christian Boussus:
Known as Nono to his friends, Christian went on to lead IBM France’s communications department, loved crossword puzzles and was a very straight-laced, courteous and elegant gentleman. In many ways he had to be so he could balance my aunt’s loud, slang-filled tirades. Each week Germaine and he raced through the popular Œdipe déchaîné/Oedipus Unchained crossword paper.
My aunt lived out her days with Christian, but they never married. I remember him often finishing a sentence with “Oh, Germaine”. They really were very different: he loved sport, drove fast, was always on time for his matches and got to the airport early. Germaine, on the other hand, dragged her feet, hated flying and never learned to drive. Nonetheless, they both adored their three dachshunds, Valentin, Félix and Cleopatre.
Christian Boussus survived Germaine Cellier by nearly 30 years, dying in Paris in August 2003 at the age of 95.
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *