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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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Feats of Clay
Bjorn Borg won his sixth—and final—French Open championship with a stirring five-set victory over Ivan Lendl.
Martina Navratilova completed a non-calendar Grand Slam with her victory in the French Open final.
Andre Agassi became only the fifth man to win all four Grand Slam events in a career with his victory at Roland Garros.
TUNE IN TO THE FRENCH OPEN
Ted Robinson, John McEnroe and Mary Carillo have the call from Roland Garros for this weekend's third round of the French Open (noon EDT on Saturday and Sunday). For video of the 1983 French Open, go to SI.com/vault
Photograph by STEVE POWELL/GETTY IMAGES
HAIR FRANCE With the colors of Cameroon on his wristband, Noah rolled over Wilander in straight sets.
STEVE POWELL/GETTY IMAGES
CHUCK SOLOMON (GRANDERSON, ETHIER)
LIAM FOLEY/ICON SMI (JONES)
JOEL AUERBACH/GETTY IMAGES (MARSHALL)
SIMON BRUTY (JETER)
KIM MORRIS/ZUMA PRESS (LANDIS)
BOB MARTIN (NADAL)