Given the nickname “Tennis Rastelli” for his Samson-like long dreadlocks, Yannick Noah won the French open in 1983 and went on to be ranked third in the world in 1986. Discovered by Arthur Ashe, he was famed not just for his on-court talent but also for his iconic haircut, which started out as a post-disco Afro before progressing to his celebrated dreads, which he paired with Jamaican wrist and headbands. He also spoke openly of his unorthodox training regime, which included a pre-match spliff and Bob Marley music.
A fashion icon of his time, his first racquet was a Le Coq Sportif wooden "Crescendo” and the brand later released the “Noah Pro” model. Noah’s collaboration with Le Coq Sportif made the label famous, and his retro poloshirts are now sought-after collector’s items. 28 years on, he remains the last Frenchman to win the French Open.
"Noah spoke openly of his unorthodox training regime, which included a pre-match spliff and Bob Marley music"
Noah eventually moved to New York, preferring the anonymity of the US to his iconic status in Paris. He has become known for his poignant, heartfelt comments, which reference his preference for the simple things in life as opposed to an existence ensconced in celebrity.
He pursued a singing career in the nineties, releasing debut album Black and What in 1991. He remains a self-confessed dreamer, traveller and provocative thinker: “You can’t change the world, but you can change things around you. You can make a difference. If you change one person, one mind, an idea, it changes the whole universe. This is how we have to start.”
Text by Mhairi Graham