Gauthier Delomez / Photo credits: AFP 06:00, June 05, 2023

40 years ago to the day, Yannick Noah, then 23 years old, won the Roland-Garros tournament against Sweden's Mats Wilander. It is still today the last victory of a Frenchman in Grand Slam. Europe 1, official radio of the tournament, returns to this historic moment of French sport in archives.

This is an image that many French people still remember. Yannick Noah, white and yellow outfit, kneeling on the clay of Centre Court and celebrating his victory in the final of Roland-Garros. "He won! Oh what a moment!", exclaims journalist Jean-René Godart, commentating for Europe 1 on Sunday, June 5, 1983. "Yannick who is kneeling in the center of the court! He is 23 years old, Yannick Noah, "he recalls, measuring the feat of the young French tennis player ranked then in 6th place in the world. The native of Sedan, who grew up in Cameroon, in Yaoundé, has just won the famous Coupe des Mousquetaires against Sweden's Mats Wilander, in three sets (6-2, 7-5, 7-6), becoming the first Frenchman to win Porte d'Auteuil since Marcel Bernard in 1946.

In the deciding game of the third set, Yannick Noah gets four match balls, but misses the first on a winning lob of his opponent. On serve then, the young Frenchman does not hesitate to go back to the net, and serves on the forehand side of Mats Wilander. The return of the Swede, 5th in the world, flies behind the backline of the court, sealing the fate of the match played in stifling heat, and after 2h24 of play. Under shouts of joy and applause from the audience, Yannick Noah raises his arms in the air, briefly shakes hands with his opponent and comes to take his father Zacharie in his arms, while spectators invade the field. A moment of anthology for French sport.

"I don't want to get to the final, I want to win"

The day before this historic final, tickets were sold on the black market for more than 4,000 francs (more than 600 euros today, editor's note). And on television, more than 11 million viewers follow the feat of the Franco-Cameroonian. In reality, the entire France relied on its champion. "Yannick Noah, finally, had all the pressure on his shoulders. He had, since the beginning of this tournament, a whole country behind him, which encouraged him, which wanted him to win, "notes Patrice Dominguez, former high-level player and consultant for Europe 1, who died in 2015.

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"And finally, he became the favorite because this (Sunday) morning, everyone and the listeners of Europe 1, gave him 85% victory. And it's difficult when you reach for the first time at 23, a final of a Grand Slam tournament, against the defending champion," he said. However, a few days before the match, Yannick Noah demonstrates his morale of steel in an interview: "I want to win. I don't want to get to the final, I want to win. My dream is to win Roland Garros. I did everything to arrive in the best conditions to win, and now it would be a bit silly to stop there. So on Sunday, I'll put everything on."

The victory of an entire clan

This assurance carried him to victory on Sunday, June 5, 1983. A victory not without emotions, because it was that of a clan. "I didn't win alone. I won because I was helped by people who were close to me, my father, my family of course, Patrice Hagelauer (his coach, editor's note)... They are part of that victory. They helped me, they worked with me, they suffered with me, "says the young champion at the microphone of Europe 1, before stopping on his father. "At every Roland-Garros, at every big occasion, he goes back to Cameroon with a lot of white hair. There, I hope it will go, "smiles Yannick Noah.

The coronation confirmed on the center court, the new hero of French tennis relishes his sporting achievement: "I had always dreamed of this victory. Now it's done. We realize that it is much more work. A life that is completely changed, but when you succeed, it's really worth it. I just won Roland-Garros, so much the better, now I'm going on holiday." 40 years have passed and after the elimination of all the French tennis players in this 2023 edition, it is difficult to say who can become the successor of Yannick Noah.