© Ella Ling

Roland Garros - spectators

Top 10 Yannick Noah quotes


It is now 30 years since a Frenchman last won Roland Garros. Here are 10 of the best quotes from Yannick Noah, the champion in 1983: 

Noah on the current generation of Frenchmen, after Jo-Wilfried Tsonga said last year that a Frenchman would not win Roland Garros: “The worst thing is not even dreaming of winning.” 

“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.”

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

Noah on smoking a joint: “We’re setting athletes apart in a society in which everyone knows there are lots of people who smoke joints. When you take up sport, your goal is not to be 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 affect sporting values because an athlete smoked a joint one evening.”

“I’m not the typical European clay-court player. You see, I like people who live life with a passion. And in tennis, as in life, I think everybody should go to the net. You can make mistakes but you have to attack. Take risks. Like the three musketeers, attack and live dangerously.” 

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

Noah discussing cocaine and amphetamines: “You take the hit during the tournament and you crash afterwards. You have guys who have played super during one tournament and who you’ve never seen again, never heard anybody talk about again.” 

Noah on Ivan Lendl: “What a monster. I want nothing to do with him. All that money and he never has time to smile. He gives the game a bad image.”

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

Noah on how the French public didn’t recognise him with dreadlocks: “All of a sudden, I wasn’t a tennis player any more. I was black and I was a nobody and the reactions of people were completely different. Nothing bad, nothing that could start a fight, just different. In fact, I’ve never had any problems being black here. It’s like Larry Holmes says: ‘When you’re black and you have money, then you’re not black.’”