The Vault

May 30, 2010

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EXCERPT | June 13, 1983

Glory of France

Local hero Yannick Noah won the French Open

The 6'4" Noah—then widely regarded as the game's finest athlete—lost only one set during the French Open fortnight en route to becoming the last Frenchman to win at Roland Garros. Curry Kirkpatrick reported for SI.

His likeness is spread across magazine covers, posters and the walls of Parisian girls' boudoirs. He attends lectures on philosophy at the Sorbonne; plays guitar in a reggae band; dates a model from Boulder, Colo.; shares a TV variety-show stage with actress Annie Girardot; and peers off the box of a popular biscuit. The only product Yannick Noah, he of the demidreadlocks, may be incapable of selling in the Republic of France is hair spray. And now he's the first Frenchman in nearly four decades to win the Championnats Internationaux de France. Vive le Cameroun.

It was 11 long summers ago that the frightened little black child left home and family in the tiny village of Yaoundé, Cameroon, in central Africa to come to Paris to learn tennis. He undoubtedly hadn't heard of Rastafarian 'dos back then. But on Sunday, on the sweltering terre battue of Stade Roland Garros, a gloriously skilled and Rasta-coiffed Noah, now 23, finally fulfilled his dream with a 6--2, 7--5, 7--6 victory over the young Swedish defending champion, Mats Wilander. When Noah received his trophy from the last native titlist, Marcel Bernard, who won in 1946, it was obvious how much French tennis had evolved. Bernard is almost bald.

Noah—the father of Chicago Bulls big man Joakim Noah—retired in 1996. The '83 French Open was his only appearance in a Grand Slam final.

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PHOTOPhotograph by STEVE POWELL/GETTY IMAGESHAIR FRANCE With the colors of Cameroon on his wristband, Noah rolled over Wilander in straight sets. PHOTORUSS ADAMS PHOTOSTEVE POWELL/GETTY IMAGES PHOTOMARY SCHILPP/CLP TWO PHOTOSCHUCK SOLOMON (GRANDERSON, ETHIER) PHOTOLIAM FOLEY/ICON SMI (JONES) PHOTOJOEL AUERBACH/GETTY IMAGES (MARSHALL) PHOTOSIMON BRUTY (JETER) PHOTOKIM MORRIS/ZUMA PRESS (LANDIS) PHOTOBOB MARTIN (NADAL) PHOTO

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)