• Every Monday,

    20 Minutes

    gives the floor to a sports actor or actress who is making the news.

    This week, meeting with Yannick Noah, for a documentary retracing his career, which will be released on May 20 on Prime Video.

  • This film, entitled "Noah, the meaning of winning", starts in Cameroon, where he is noticed by the great American champion Arthur Ashe.

    The starting point of a career combining great victories and deep wounds.

  • The winner of Roland-Garros in 1983 tells us about the genesis of this documentary and evokes his passion for the game, which is still as strong as ever.

The story begins in Cameroon.

It ends there, too.

An evidence.

This is where Yannick Noah's destiny changed in the early 1970s, when the American champion Arthur Ashe, his idol, came on a tour of Africa and he was able to exchange a few balls with him.

The young Yannick catches the eye of the first black player to have won a Grand Slam tournament (US Open 1968), who will intervene to find him a place in a sport-studies in France.

Today, it is still there, near Yaoundé, that Noah trains Uma, an 8-year-old girl who is particularly gifted in tennis.

That's it, and everything between these two moments - his difficult integration in France, his dazzling arrival on the circuit, his victory at Roland-Garros, his physical and psychological injuries, his successes as captain of the French Davis Cup and Fed Cup teams, his career as a singer -, which Yannick Noah (62 years old in a few days) recounts in a documentary entitled "Noah, the meaning of winning", available May 20 on Amazon Prime Video.

He is not alone in retracing his extraordinary journey.

Ivan Lendl, Guy Forget, Henri Leconte, his son Joakim, Michel Denisot and even Donald Dell, a big name in American tennis who was his agent and that of Arthur Ashe, also testify.

All complemented by some intimate archive footage.

For

20 Minutes

, the only Frenchman to have ever won a Grand Slam tournament takes a look back and talks about his still intact passion.

Why this documentary, at this moment in your life?

I don't know if there was a good time or not to do it.

It happened to be pinned like that.

We all had a bit of time, it was one of the few good things about this pandemic, when they locked us all up.

We had a bit of time to put away our memories, where are we going, where are we coming from… For me, that materialized with this film.

What was the goal for you?

Tell you, take the opportunity to look back, talk about your parents, your story?

A bit of all that… I don't watch TV, but I saw “The Last Dance” [a mini-series that traces the 1997-1998 season of the Bulls, centered on the personality of Michael Jordan].

It touched me a lot, already because it takes place in Chicago, in the locker room where my son was.

But I was also captivated by this whole adventure, and the fact that it was also told by other people [than Jordan].

It takes on a whole new dimension.

We see a lot of family archives, filmed with a camcorder, especially at the beginning in Cameroon when you were little… Where do they come from?

It's mom who films, with small cameras, Super 8 films. About twenty years ago, I had looked for these tapes and I couldn't find them.

I thought they were at mom's but when I emptied her house I couldn't find them.

I've moved around a lot throughout my life.

Lately, I was at home and I thought I was going to do some tidying up.

And I found them.

The documentary had already been launched.

I call the producer [Mathias Rubin], I ask him if he knows where we can find a Super 8 film projector. He brings the equipment, we launch and there click, first image, my grandmother, who must have 60 years.

And I screamed!

Because I didn't know what it was, there were no little labels with the dates.

And I had five, six hours of film on my family in front of me… It was magic.

Did you watch it all?

Sure !

We watched everything the same day.

Impossible not to.

There are plenty of images that I had never seen.

It does not make us younger!

pic.twitter.com/wbwMGn8Ohj

— Yannick Noah (@NoahYannick) March 14, 2019


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Right from the start, we see the man who is going to become somewhat the red thread of this film, because he is the one in your life, Arthur Ashe.

Already, how was the construction of the documentary decided?

Did you impose certain things?

We exchanged over time.

In fact, we had so much gear, with my films, archive footage, etc., that we had to choose an angle.

We debated, and then at some point it just flows.

It is obvious that Arthur is an angle that is both fair and perhaps misunderstood.

This moment when your life changes.

When I see those movies where I'm hitting balls with him… If that moment hadn't existed, I wouldn't be here today.

He is present at each stage of your life finally?

He is part of my story, completely.

He inspired me.

He's my hero.

I have known my hero.

And it's very dangerous to meet your hero, because very often you are disappointed.

Not him, on the contrary.

I had so much admiration for him.

I copied him, he didn't need to talk to me, it was by example.

"Fête le mur" [an association created in 1996 by Noah for children and young people in priority neighborhoods], that's him.

I thought it was so chic to have tennis schools in the tough neighborhoods of New York, the Bronx, Harlem.

I tried to copy it.

I tried to hold myself well on the court because he held himself well.

Well, I couldn't always do it… But he was my mentor.

He has always guided me.

When you watch the finished documentary, what do you think of the story of the man you see?

I know absolutely nothing about it.

I saw the movie once, a few weeks ago.

Those who worked on it were waiting for my reaction, but I don't know where to start.

There are so many things going through my head.

This film, maybe I'm making it for my children, maybe for the people who like me or who want to know me.

This is the starting idea.

Also, I'd rather it be me telling my story than someone else.

To describe you as a player, we often put forward your physical qualities, almost as if it were easy.

We often see you in the documentary working hard, in sport-studies and then during certain periods.

You wanted to highlight that?

In fact, I wanted if a kid looks at this, he thinks “I can do it too”.

And that's the job.

Talent, ease, that's nothing.

I had talent for playing tennis, but not more than that.

On the other hand, what I had, even when I was young, was this desire, this need to work.

That was my real talent after all.

Whenever I see kids, players, pros, amateurs, I always talk about that.

So it's boring, because people expect you to give some kind of magic trick.

It does not dream work.

But it must, because it is accessible to all.

It's not easy to do 10 hours more than the others a week, but if you do you have a chance.

Do you have any regrets about your career, especially what happened after your victory at Roland?

Should you have earned more?

If the 60-year-old Yannick finds himself with the 24-year-old Yannick on the edge of the court, could he have advised him?

Yes.

But the 17-year-old Yannick, no.

My story doesn't start when I won Roland.

I was 23 at the time, I already had 15 years of tennis behind me.

A lot has happened in these 15 years.

Maybe I could have earned more, but damn, I could have earned less too.

I could have not been a tennis player at all.

What would you say to the 24-year-old Yannick then?

Joker

(laughs)

.

But it was that moment that built what you did next, your career as Davis Cup captain, the way you handled all those groups, right?

Sure.

Find other challenges, always.

But I won things.

And then I had two children during my career.

At the time we didn't have kids when we were in career.

I may have lost matches because of that.

It's worth it !

I was 25 when Joakim was born, I was right in it.

Yeah, I spent time changing diapers and winning games.

I liked it.

Did you anticipate, at the end of your career, becoming Davis Cup captain?

No not at all.

How did you approach this passage to the other side of the barrier?

We were a really close group.

With Guy, we played doubles together, our wives were sisters, I'm the godfather of his kid, he saw Joakim born.

We were the best doubles team together, we went to tournaments, we rented a house together.

When I stopped playing, what I was going to miss were my friends.

And they had this idea of ​​offering me to be captain, for me it was a way of staying together.

Nothing else.

I learned the trade like that, with my brothers.

We worked hard, they were fully behind me.

I didn't have to gain their trust, to prove, that's why we were able to advance and why they played like that [during the 1991 Davis Cup final won against the United States] .

They have been amazing.

Then, with the other teams, it was a bit different.

How do you explain this little extra thing that you have always had in management?

I like players.

And I love this game. I love this game

(he repeats)

.

I have a passion for this game. I loved playing, I love watching it play, I love the emotion of a player winning a tournament.

I get goose bumps, sometimes even in front of players I don't even know.

We play for those moments.

You see the player who wins, you watch the family in the stands, the happiness, all that work for those moments.

Does it still make you vibrate so much today?

Oh yes, always.

Real-Manchester City the other time [the Champions League semi-final return won by Real], huge.

Everything that happens at the final whistle… But these idiots put the ad right away, it's not possible!

(he fidgets in his chair)

.

It's the best time, that's why we play!

We have not yet understood that this is why we play.

To be able to live these moments.

And we cut, they're not interested.

It costs millions to have the rights, and we take that away.

I don't care to see the flats of the foot, what I want is people's joy, the stands, people kissing, going crazy with joy, crying, kids jumping, we have need to see that right?

Sport is that emotion.

And when you participate from within, ugh...

A great generation of French players is coming to an end.

In your opinion, did it live up to what it should have been?

It's hard to be Tsonga.

It's hard to be Gasquet.

We have often heard “yeah, their career…”.

Wait, your kid plays tennis and he's going to play like Gasquet?

That is the class !

Yes, sometimes they could have won one or two more games to win a tournament or a Grand Slam, okay.

But there were two or three good players in their generation already.

Small Nadal or Federer hanging out every time, it's not nothing.

It was the best generation in the history of tennis who was there, who blocked everything.

Of course we can always do a little better.

But you have to realize that you can also do much worse.

It's not easy to be 5th in the tennis world.

There is a generation gap behind them.

Are we being too hard on young people?

Because they are asked, in fact, to seek the second Grand Slam tournament in the history of French tennis…

I do not know.

But I'll get to it.

I joined the mental preparation unit at the Federation a few months ago.

The goal is to ensure that we have a player who arrives within 10 years.

Is the site really colossal or do you think these are small things that need to be changed?

It's hard to change mentalities.

The athlete is surrounded by so many misunderstandings at all levels, ignorance of the difficulty it represents to reach the very top.

It makes me crazy.

You have to respect everyone's journey.

Do you still want to help, to be there?

Yes, yes… Hugo Gaston two years ago, it was nice [8th finalist at Roland-Garros after having eliminated Stan Wawrinka in particular].

I am happy when a player performs because it is synonymous with joy.

The stadium is on fire, people have paid their ticket, they had a great time.

But you have to win.

And how to win?

  • Sport

  • Tennis

  • Roland Garros 2022

  • Yannick Noah

  • Interview

  • Amazon Prime Video

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