Gauthier Delomez (interview by Jacques Vendroux) / Photo credits: GABRIEL DUVAL / AFP 06:00, May 31, 2023

In an exceptional podcast produced by Europe 1 Studio, Yannick Noah confides in Jacques Vendroux 40 years after his mythical victory at Roland-Garros. The former tennis champion looks back on his beginnings, difficult on a personal level, marked by a distance from his family and especially his mother, who agreed to let him go to boarding school.

"We often talk about the sacrifices of the players, but we forget the entourage, we forget the sacrifices, the dreams, the torture of parents who separate from their children for years, and which are the best years of life." It is in these words that Yannick Noah remembers the difficulty in terms of personal life, to start a career in tennis. On the occasion of the 40th anniversary of his victory at Roland-Garros, Jacques Vendroux spoke with the man who remains, to this day, the last French Grand Slam winner, in an exceptional podcast.

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"It's not ordinary to have your child leave so young"

The former player recounts the moment he had to leave his family for the first time. "Mom has been a mom. It was not ordinary to have your child who leaves so young, "he says at the microphone of Europe 1, explaining that she had agreed to let him go to boarding school. "I asked him, 'But how did you do it?' It's not like I went to boarding school because I was being punished, because I messed up... No, I was going because I wanted to play tennis which is something completely abstract, with very little chance of success in addition," he said.

It was only later that his mother answered his question, when he was confronted with the same situation with her son Joakim who became a basketball star. "She said, 'Listen, I'm not going to put any particular pressure on you, but I think for five or six years before I came back to France, I cried every night.'"

The strong support of his mother

Yannick Noah shares this emptiness he experienced when he was younger. "Childhood, adolescence, I didn't experience that with my parents. I felt it afterwards, when I had to build myself as a man. My parents never had that, they had their eldest son with whom they never lived. So when we saw each other, it was always very intense but too short," recalls the former French champion, who salutes the sacrifices of his mother: "Mom was sporty, so this energy and frustration, she put him in encouragement. So when I played, if I lost, she was sick."

A remark that his mother confirms at the microphone of Europe 1 ... "If there was a guy whistling against Yannick, I could go down! I remember during the Davis Cup, I had an argument with a guy whose daughter was in love with (Pete) Sampras. I say 'but how can she encourage Sampras! But it's not possible, it's Yannick who plays!' And it was sincere," she said.

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"If I won a tournament, I knew she was happy, and without expressing it. ' I love you', we didn't talk like that, but it was in the feeling, "continues Yannick Noah with Jacques Vendroux. "I know that there are some French players who were my opponents, and even after I stopped, I think mom put spikes in dolls so that they lose," says the former world number 3, saying that his mother was "collapsed" when other French players played better than her son. A feeling that his mother did not know during the semi-final of Roland-Garros 1983, when Yannick Noah brilliantly defeated his compatriot Christophe Roger-Vasselin to reach the final.