Yannick Noah: at 12, the legendary Arthur Ashe wrote him a premonitory message…


“It’s something completely improbable,” says Yannick Noah, in the podcast “Yannick Noah, between you and me”. In 1972, a group of professional tennis players, on tour in Africa, stopped in Yaoundé, Cameroon, just next to the small village of Etoudi where Yannick Noah and his parents lived. Better still, among these champions is the famous Arthur Ashe, his lifelong idol, the only black player to have won a Grand Slam tournament. Yannick Noah says: “I identified completely with him, but from afar… He is in America. I am in the bled, here in Cameroon.” But fate interferes…

As with the other children of the local tennis club before him, Arthur Ashe exchanged a few balls that day with Yannick Noah. Immediately, the professional tennis player is surprised to discover the talent of this 11-year-old boy. Yannick Noah was already, at the time, certainly the most gifted player of his age in Africa. Before leaving, Arthur Ashe, who senses his potential, offers Yannick Noah his racquet.

Heard on europe1:

“It was like a dream when Arthur Ashe arrived at the club. I knew he was the only player who could have been my uncle..”

At that time, Yannick Noah is “in the cosmos”… But he is also frustrated. Because in the heat of the moment, he didn’t have time to ask Arthur Ashe to sign the poster he has of him in his childhood room. From the top of his eleven years, Yannick Noah is already ready to do anything to achieve his goal.

In the podcast “Yannick Noah, between you and me”, he still says: “I had heard that his plane took off at 7:45 a.m. You should know that from the village of Etoudi to the airport, it’s an hour .” The boy decides to try everything for everything. He stays up all night, then runs to wake his father at six o’clock sharp. “Dad had a party, he’s shattered… And I ask him: ‘Dad, can you take me to the airport because I don’t have my signed poster?’ And there, my dad is wonderful, he says to me: ‘Wait, I’m putting on a tracksuit’.”

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Yannick Noah arrives at seven o’clock at Yaoundé airport. “When [Arthur Ashe et les autres joueurs pros] arrive, I imagine they’re tired, they’ve had a party and everything. And the first thing he said to me was: ‘You again?'” For the only explanation, Yannick Noah hands his poster to the American champion, who signs it and shakes his hand, wishing him good luck for the future. .

Back in his room that day, Yannick put the poster on his bed. The next day, his uncle asks him if he has seen what Arthur Ashe wrote for him, as a dedication. “But I don’t know, it’s in English,” explains Yannick Noah. It is his uncle who finally reveals to him the message that his hero left him: “For Yannick. I hope that I will find you at Wimbledon.”

To listen in full to Yannick Noah’s intimate and rare account of the strongest moments of his life, find the podcast “Yannick Noah, between you and me” produced by Europe 1 Studio on your favorite listening platform.

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