Few others in the game have had a more curious journey. Yannick Noah, who was discovered by Arthur Ashe in his native Cameroon as a young boy playing with a homemade racquet, went to France to shape his game and eventually emerged as the France’s only Roland Garros champion of the Open era. He then went on to become a rock superstar, a successful Davis and Fed Cup coach, and a member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
With Noah recently leading France to its first Davis Cup championship in 16 years, we thought we’d share some of the many provocative insights made by tennis’ philosopher king.
– “Who is saying, ‘Let’s make all this a little quieter’? Who’s there to lead us and say. ‘Okay, lets 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 os 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 new. 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 creams 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 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.”
– “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 that you can have anything you want.”
– “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’ve always considered tennis as combat in an arena between two gladiators who have their rackets and their courage as weapons.”
– [After being asked if he wants to be No. 1] “I just want to be in harmony with life.”