Saturday, 21 June 2014


The Marburg Tennis Club would have to be one of the most picturesque places I have ever had the good fortune to hit a tennis ball at. It made playing the game such a pleasure that you sometimes forgot the game and took in the surrounds instead.
The walk to the club over the few days I was there was a walk through cobblestone streets that if you did the sums on it all you would realize the magnitude of the work required to achieve it. The town of Marburg is nothing short of magnificent, playing tennis there was yet another highlight of my tour of 1991.
I mentioned in my last chapter sitting down in the lounge at the youth hostel in Marburg and watching the Hamburg Masters. From memory I believe that back then it was in fact called The German Open, either way it always attracted a quality field. Give or take a day I remember that May 7 of 1991 produced possibly the most outrageous tennis match there has ever been played at a professional level.
Frenchman Yannick Noah was all but finished with his career but was granted a wildcard into the main draw where he won his first match against Australian Richard Fromberg. In round two he faced Swede Magnus Larsson who at the time was ranked 46, Noah was ranked 113 . This match would leave no doubt whatsoever as to who in fact was the most entertaining player in World Tennis.
Rather than me explain just what Yannick Noah did in this match, look it up, the You Tube highlights are more than worth a look 'Noah Larsson Hamburg 1991'.
Now I am all for entertainment in a game of tennis but this match possibly goes beyond the guidelines of 'tennis etiquette' particularly as it was played for both rankings and prize money. But what did Noah care? I believe that this was his second last tournament before he retired so running after a ball and jumping into the stands to receive a glass of wine from a spectator was all part of Noah's final script .
His John McEnroe impersonation is also one of the funniest things you will see, perhaps even better than the great man himself. Umpiring a match like this would no doubt have been somewhat difficult as some shots played were not actually with the racket. So why wasn't Noah told to behave? Because the crowd reaction to everything he did was so euphoric that the umpire may have risked being dragged out of the stadium , bound and gagged.
The match eventually was won by Noah in three sets but my hat went off to Larsson who played along with it , he didn't have much choice. Noah went on to make the quarter finals where he lost to Larsson's mate Magnus Gustafsson, a fellow Swede who lost in 5 sets in the final to Novacek of the Czech Republic.
Yannick Noah was perhaps the last great entertainer in the game of tennis as far as court antics were concerned. Others could do more with the ball but I don't know of any who could entertain as the Frenchman did. I remember him playing Lendl once and he started mimicking the umpire to the crowd, he had a way with actions. I also recall him as the French Davis Cup Captain who had a rather unique way of 'motivating' his team.
His courtside stereo and dancing could be seen regularly while his players trained , there must have been something in it as he  took his team to victory in 1991 and again in 1996. Noah was one of the great characters of World Tennis who not only won The French Open Men's singles title but who took the French to Davis Cup glory in the same year he retired professionally, France's first victory in 59 years.
Noah also took up singing and in one year sold over one million copies of an album while his son is a champion basket baller in the NBA . Yannick Noah is a man who the Tennis World was fortunate to have as both an ambassador and entertainer......

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