Photo : Serge Philippot

I’m mesmerized by this photo. When they say a picture is worth a thousand words…

Photo : Twitter/@YCochennec (Tennis Magazine)

The year was 1983.

A French tennis player had the stadium—and indeed his entire nation—at his feet.

Yannick Noah. The last Frenchman to win on the red dirt in Paris.

It had been 37 years since France had seen one of their own raise the Coupe des Mousquetaires. Way back in 1946, champion Marcel Bernard and his fellow competitors played in trousers.

In 1983, Noah kicked down every door at Porte d’Auteuil.

Photo : FFT

As the sixth seed, he knocked out Anders Jarryd, Victor Pecci, Pat DuPré, John Alexander, Ivan Lendl, Christophe Roger-Vasselin and Mats Wilander. In his seven matches, he lost only one set to Ivan Lendl, the third seed and Noah’s nemesis since the 1977 Junior Orange Bowl.

Photo : Twitter/@TousPoulidor

The photos below were taken 40 years ago, but they haven’t aged a bit. Here’s Yannick’s father, Cameroonian footballer Zacharie Noah, running onto centre court after watching his son leave his own mark on sport in front of their adopted hometown crowd. It’s impossible not be moved.

Photo : Twitter/@Sportstricolore
Photos : Twitter/@lequipeEXPLORE

Though RG1983 is the only Slam he ever won, Noah had a sparkling career and remains the best player in the history of modern French tennis, ahead of Tsonga, Lecomte, Forget and Monfils, in that order.

He took home 23 titles, was a runner-up 13 times and ascended to World No.3 in July 1986. A month later, he made it to No.1 in doubles. 

Read also: Andreescu Battles Past Azarenka at Roland-Garros

With an impressive number of partners, he pocketed 16 doubles titles including RG1984 with Mats Wilander. He shares 9 of his 16 with Guy Forget.

To mark the 40th anniversary of his big win, a number of French media outlets will be featuring Yannick Noah tributes and specials in the two and a half weeks between his birthday on May 18 and June 5.

Roland-Garros also got in on the celebrations, starting with the Journée Yannick Noah on May 27.

Photo : Amélie Laurin/FFT

After getting a few stars together for training sessions open to fans on Court Philippe-Chatrier, Noah took to the stage at 2 p.m. For those of you who didn’t know, he’s released 12 albums since 1990.

Image : Twitter/@ArthurNys
Photo : AFP
Photo : P. Lahalle/L’Équipe

He really brought the house down when he was joined by two of his doubles partners, Mansour Bahrami and former No.1 and three-time RG champion Mats Wilander.

Photo : Twitter/@rolandgarros

If you want to feel like you were at the party, here’s a video of the first three minutes: Tennis. Roland-Garros – Yannick Noah, en plein concert… son titre en 1983 ! – TennisActu

All the money raised on May 27 went to Fête le Mur, a tennis charity for underprivileged children founded by Yannick Noah in 1996.

Read also: Sam Aliassime’s Front Row Seat

The following day, just as the tournament was getting underway, he was back in the stadium to unveil a fresco in his honour.

Photos : FFT

And about that very first photo, if you felt stuck in Where’s Waldo?, let me help you out:

Photo : Tennis Magazine

Conspicuous by his absence

Photo : Photo News

Rafael Nadal is larger than life, much like the statue in his honour that was unveiled on May 27,2021, at Roland-Garros. 

For the first time in 19 years, RG will be settled without its GOAT. Very, very rarely has so much been said about a player who isn’t even competing. It’s almost as if there’s more talk about him in absentia than when he was in the mix.

That’s really saying something.

When an absentee’s presence is so deeply felt, it’s because their spirit inhabits the place.

Photo : Eurosport

One day soon, he’ll everlastingly haunt the Stade Roland-Garros, like the famous French four—René Lacoste, Henri Cochet, Jean Borotra and Jacques Brugnon—whom you can read about here.

Still, of the immortals, Rafa will always be the greatest. By far.

Photo : Eurosport

The list of his achievements on clay and at Roland Garros in particular boggles the mind.

Read also: French Open Contenders and Hopefuls

All 14 of his French crowns were won in four sets or less: seven in three and seven in four. In his five most recent finals, he dropped only one set.

Here are some of the records that make the King of Clay absolutely untouchable.

Infographie : Roland-Garros
  • 14 wins in 14 finals
  • 112–3 in 115 matches
  • 97.39% of matches won
  • 74 opponents defeated
  • 8 wins over Novak Djokovic
  • 6 wins over Roger Federer

The only record he can’t claim is the number of consecutive appearances, which belongs to his fellow Spaniard Feliciano Lopez (21: 2001–2021). So far, Novak Djokovic has 19 (2005 to 2023).

Rafa stopped at 18 (2005 to 2022) and is tied with Mikhail Youzhny (2001 to 2018) and Guillermo Vilas (1972 to 1989).

Photo : Christophe Guibbaud/FFT

Going way back

Photo : Twitter/@InteBNLdItalia

A lot of players step behind the baseline to wait for their rivals’ most powerful serves, but Daniil Medvedev really takes the cake. As a kid, he must have liked to sit at the back of the classroom.

Read also: Shapovalov Eyes Alcaraz Clash at Roland-Garros

Rafa does it too, sometimes to the point of almost falling out of view like he did against Matteo Berrettini at the 2019 US Open and John Isner in Monte Carlo in 2015.

Image : Amazon Prime
Image : Deportes 2

The joke was that he preferred to return from the locker room. Or that he really loved being close to his fans.

Coming back to the first photo, it has a little something extra because it was taken with a wide-angle lens. The seemingly gigantic racquet perfectly frames Daniil’s head and shoulders.

Read also: Daniil Medvedev Captures First Clay-Court Title in Rome

The angle also broadens the depth of field, so it’s as if the opponent on the other side of the net is playing in a different time zone.

Ultimately, that significant distance from the baseline is a double-edged sword. It gives the receiver more time to react but also opens up every angle for the server. And even if you manage to get to the wide serve, you’ve taken yourself far off the court for the next shot.

Nothing’s perfect.

Photo : Reuters



Twitter: @paul6rivard

Follow all our Canadians in action here.