French Open: The Words and Wisdom of Yannick Noah

Photo by Clement Halborn, courtesy of Getty Images.


On the 30th anniversary of Yannick Noah’s victory at the 1983 French Open, here is a Noah quotebook—a collection of provocative insights from tennis’ philosopher king:

—”Who’s saying, “Let’s make all this a little bit quieter’? Who’s there to lead us and say, ‘Okay, let’s just have a peace. How about enjoying each other’s differences?’ All I hear is how different we are.”

—“I want to be successful at tennis, to be good at my work, but to me, the most important thing is to make a whole stadium enjoy themselves. That is tennis to me.”

—“I like people who live life with a passion. And in tennis, as in life, I think everyone should go to the net. Take risks. Like the Three Musketeers, attack and live dangerously!”

—“All the court is a stage and players are characters. When there are 10,000 people in the stands and the television cameras are there, we are all actors. There is the serious one, the one who always screams at the umpire, the one who never says a word, the one who is a clown. I am the clown.”

—“[I was] very depressed and lonely at 23… People told me that winning would bring me happiness. They said, ‘You’re going to be rich and have glory. You’re going to be happy, my son.’ But that’s not how I found it…. People tried to tell me who I was, what I was supposed to do. I was so happy when I stopped playing…. Thinking about winning is a disease that I don’t want to have anymore.”

—“[Gustavo Kuerten] has this look in his eyes. There’s love there. It’s almost religious. He’s not like, ‘I win, I’m the best.’ It’s not an ego trip. It’s ‘Oh my God, I won. I’m so happy for my people.’”

—“What a monster! I want nothing to do with him. All that money and he never has the time to smile. He gives the game a bad image!” [On Ivan Lendl.]

—”[The sport’s code of conduct] is the worst thing that’s happened to tennis. You should be allowed to scream and break your racket.”

—“It’s a totally unreal world we live in. It’s very dangerous to know you can have anything you want.”

—“We’re setting athletes apart in a society in which everyone knows there are lot of people who smoke joints. When you take up sport, your goal is not to become a model for the young, but to be the best. I’m not saying smoking a joint is good, but it’s not serious. In no way does it effect sporting values because an athlete smoked a joint one evening.”

—“Becoming a champion, one learns many things, but nobody teaches you how to deal with sudden glory.”

—“It takes an individual character to win Grand Slams. But what you do in Davis Cup is sacrifice for others—it’s about sharing and respect for your teammates. That’s why the Davis Cup is great.”

— “I have always considered tennis as combat in an arena between two gladiators who have their rackets and their courage as weapons.”

—“I just want to be in harmony with life.” [After being asked if he wants to be No. 1.]


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