Eloïse Bertil 17:05 pm, June 05, 2023

Six years after they met in Yaoundé, Cameroon, when Yannick Noah was just a child, Arthur Ashe invited his protégé to play doubles with him at Wimbledon. In the podcast "Yannick Noah, between you and me" with Jacques Vendroux, the last French winner at Roland-Garros looks back on this unforgettable match with his idol.

Yannick Noah and Arthur Ashe met in 1972, while the American tennis player was in Yaoundé during a tour of Africa. It only took a few exchanges of balls for Arthur Ashe, tennis legend, the only African-American winner of a Grand Slam, to detect the potential of the little Franco-Cameroonian. That day, Arthur Ashe had donated his racket to Yannick Noah, and had told him that he hoped to find him one day at Wimbledon...

Years later, in 1978, Yannick Noah, now a professional tennis player, received an invitation for a doubles at Wimbledon... An invitation signed Arthur Ashe. "Are you sure there isn't a mistake? That I'm going to play Wimbledon doubles with Arthur Ashe?" he said to imitate his reaction at the time, in the podcast "Yannick Noah, entre vous et moi". Since their meeting in reality, Arthur Ashe has followed from afar the progress of the young tennis prodigy ... And he intends to honour his promises. "And then I have a panic. It's a little too much." At 18, Yannick Noah still worships his role model. "You have to know that at the time, me, I play with the same necklace as Arthur Ashe, I try to walk like Arthur Ashe," says the French star at the microphone of Jacques Vendroux. As late as 1975, he refused to play the doubles final at the Angoulême Tennis Club to watch Arthur Ashe's match against Jimmy Connors in the Wimbledon final. And here he is now preparing to play with his hero

>> READ ALSO – Yannick Noah: at 12 years old, the legendary Arthur Ashe writes him a premonitory message...

Heard on europe1:

"The day before, the story is in all the newspapers: Arthur Ashe has found a little guy in Africa, and they will play together six years later on Central"

The match that awaits Yannick Noah that day is legendary: Arthur Ashe and he face Andrew Pattinson and Bernie Mitton. "Two blacks against two apartheidians, it was something!" exclaims Yannick Noah. But as the big moment approaches, excitement gives way to fear. "My knees were shaking. A bit like when I have malaria, there's something uncontrollable." Just before entering Central, he runs away. He asks Arthur Ashe not to play. The American manages to reassure him and the two men enter the court. Yannick Noah recalls: "I had seen this thing so much, I had dreamed of it so much. I had read everything about Central. I knew where the clock was. I knew the court before I even stepped on it."

Heard on europe1:

"I was on autopilot"

The pair Arthur Ashe and Yannick Noah finally won. "When we win the match, I jump into his arms," recalls Yannick Noah. "He's like, 'Yannick, it's only the first round.'" But for Yannick Noah, it's a daydream. He has not forgotten where he came from. In "Yannick Noah, between you and me", he confides: "You imagine, a little guy from Cameroon. There were 200 of us all over the country playing to the maximum, tennis didn't exist, and I find myself, little guy, winning with Arthur who had won me his racket six years before..."

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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.