“The country has stopped”: then 14 years old, Cédric Pioline recounts the victory of Yannick Noah at Roland-Garros

Jean-Baptiste Sarrazin
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8:56 p.m., June 05, 2023

A forehand that comes out, the public at Central letting their joy burst and his father running to take him in his arms: forty years ago, Yannick Noah won Roland-Garros, signing one of the most resounding victories in sport. French which has not been reissued since for men. On June 5, 1983, Noah won at the age of 23 the trophy that every French tennis player covets, by dominating the Swedish Mats Wilander 6-2, 7-5, 7-6 (7/3), defending champion, finally succeeding Marcel Bernard (1946). A moment forever engraved in the memory of the French people and that of the consultants ofEurope 1 Sports like Cédric Pioline: “Yannick Noah came into people’s lives. He made all of France win,” said the former tennis player at Lionel Rosso’s microphone.

“My Finest Hour”

40 years later, Yannick Noah spoke about this final. That day, “It was my hour of glory. It was at home. Everywhere in the stands there were my friends, my family, the weather was nice, I was a boarder in this stadium, I slept in this stadium for a year when I was 16-17 years old, I dreamed of this place, of this match”, recalled the former player.

A final that became a national memory for Cédric Pioline who was then 14 years old: “There were three TV channels, there were no computers, there was no internet, there were no cell phones. And at that time, it was a national event, it was way beyond tennis and the final. The whole country stopped. At 8 p.m., there were images of deserted streets. There had the shouting that came from the houses with the windows open”, said the consultant ofEurope 1 Sport.

The perfect tournament

But to accomplish this feat, Yannick Noah had to achieve the perfect tournament. The first rounds go smoothly. Without losing a single set, the native of Sedan reached the quarter-finals where Ivan Lendl, world number 3, awaited him. While a duel against world number 1 Jimmy Connors was to be held in the half, the Frenchman Christophe Roger-Vasselin managed the feat of beating the American, and faced Noah for a place in the final, removing a thorn from his foot.

Roger-Vasselin does not exist in this match (6-3, 6-0, 6-0). Noah is then only one step away from the coronation that an entire nation hopes for. And the Frenchman does not tremble and puts Wilander down. An unprecedented victory for French sport which, to this day, has still not been achieved again. For Jacques Vendroux, this final “gave France the hope of winning.”

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