Eloïse Bertil 06h39, May 30, 2023, modified at 06:47, May 30, 2023PODCAST - Since his very first steps on a tennis court, Yannick Noah has revered Arthur Ashe, a black American tennis player with whom he identifies. When in 1972 in Cameroon the opportunity to meet him arose by chance, Yannick Noah, then eleven years old, did not want to miss this chance. In episode 2 of the podcast "Yannick Noah, between you and me" at the microphone of Jacques Vendroux, he returns to this meeting that sealed his destiny, that of future champion of Roland-Garros.
"It's a completely unlikely thing," says Yannick Noah, in the podcast "Yannick Noah, between you and me". In 1972, a group of professional tennis players, on tour in Africa, stopped in Yaoundé, Cameroon, right next to the small village of Etoudi in which Yannick Noah and his parents lived. Better, among these champions, is the famous Arthur Ashe, his idol of always, the only black player to have won a Grand Slam tournament. Yannick Noah says: "I identified completely with him, but from afar... He is in America. I am in the bled, here in Cameroon." But fate gets involved...
As with the other children of the local tennis club before him, Arthur Ashe exchanges a few balls that day with Yannick Noah. Immediately, the professional tennis player is surprised to discover the talent of this 11-year-old boy. Yannick Noah is already, at the time, certainly the most gifted player of his age in Africa. Before leaving, Arthur Ashe, who sensed his potential, offered Yannick Noah his racket.
Heard on europe1:
"It was like a dream when Arthur Ashe arrived at the club. I knew he was the only player who could have been my uncle."
At that moment, Yannick Noah is "in the cosmos"... But he is also frustrated. Because in the heat of the moment, he did not have time to ask Arthur Ashe to sign the poster he has of him in his child's room. At the age of eleven, Yannick Noah is already ready to do anything to achieve his goal.
In the podcast "Yannick Noah, between you and me", he says: "I had heard that his plane took off at 7:45. You should know that from the village of Etoudi to the airport, it's an hour." The boy decides to try everything for the whole. He stays up all night, then runs to wake his father at six o'clock. "Dad had celebrated, he is smashed... And I ask him, 'Dad, can you take me to the airport because I don't have my signed poster?' And then my dad is wonderful, he says, 'Wait, I'm putting on a survet.'"
Yannick Noah arrives at Yaoundé airport at seven o'clock. "When [Arthur Ashe and the other pro players] come in, I guess they're tired, they've partied and everything. And the first thing he says to me is, 'You again?'" For the only explanation, Yannick Noah hands his poster to the American champion, who signs it and shakes his hand wishing him good luck for the future...
Back in his room that day, Yannick puts the poster on his bed. The next day, his uncle asked him if he had seen what Arthur Ashe had written for him, as a dedication. "But I don't know, it's in English," says Yannick Noah. It is his uncle who finally reveals to him the message left by his hero: "For Yannick. I hope I'll see you again at Wimbledon."
Read also: Yannick Noah's secret passion for... the Ardennes, the "paradise"
To listen in full to Yannick Noah's intimate and rare account of the strongest moments of his life, find the podcast "Yannick Noah, entre vous et moi" produced by Europe 1 Studio on your favorite listening platform.
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