“People were spitting lava, the stadium was erupting,” recall commentators Jean-Paul Loth and Hervé Duthu

Hervé Duthu and Jean-Paul Loth watched Yannick Noah win the tennis final at Roland Garros on June 5, 1983. The first commented on the tennis tournament, the second was the coach of the French team. 40 years later, they keep an intact memory of this day.

“I was more of an advocate than a commentator that day”, on Sunday 28 May in the Info Club of franceinfo the journalist Hervé Duthu recalled who commented on the Roland-Garros final between Yannick Noah and Mats Wilander, in 1983 on TF1. “I had asked to escape from the cursed cabin to go and see Yannick sweating on the edge of the field”, adds his accomplice to the comment, the former national technical director (DTN) and coach of the French team Jean-Paul Loth. Together, they lived Yannick Noah’s title in “a phase in eruption”.

franceinfo: You commented together on this Roland-Garros 1983 but weren’t Jean-Paul Loth on air for this final?

Jean-Paul Loth: We’ve commented on thousands of matches together, I still wouldn’t have bothered Hervé for a final that would have been won by a Frenchman! So I asked him if he would allow me to escape from his cursed cabin to go to the sideline and see my Yannick three meters away. I wanted to see him sweat! As DTN and French team captain, I wanted to be on the pitch.

Hervé Duthu, you have therefore found yourself alone in the commentary. How did you manage to distance yourself when you were very close to Yannick Noah?

Hervé Duthu: Honestly, hardly! It’s easier with two. For years we commented rather alone and then, during a US Open where it was necessary to comment for more than 10 hours in a row, Jean-Paul gave me a hand and the duo stayed. Commenting only on this final didn’t pose any particular problems for me other than being close to Yannick and his family. So I contented myself with accompanying the score and frightening myself in my cabin. I was more of an advocate than a commentator that day.

What memories do you keep of the hours that followed?

Jean-Paul Loth: My first memory is seeing the stadium explode. People were spitting lava and coming to camp. At that moment I understood that we had achieved what I had promised the president of the Federation. As a DTN, I had recklessly committed to Davis Cup and Grand Slam victories. When Yannick won, he saved our lives because otherwise he would have kicked us out of the Federation. We then created the monument it represented.

Hervé Duthu: It was a night of singing. There was the Telephone group and many friends. Then work resumed quickly. I was asked to bring Yannick Noah on the 1:00 pm news. It was very complicated because at that moment he didn’t like solicitations very much.

With this fresco inaugurated this Sunday on the players’ building renamed “Yannick Noah 1983”, was the French Tennis Federation late in paying homage to Yannick Noah?

Hervé Duthu: Yes, it took a long time. Especially since there are very few French winners. Before Yannick, it had been Marcel Bernard in 1946. There had been the celebrations of the Four Musketeers, Suzane Lenglen, or even Simonne Mathieu (who gave her name to the last great court inaugurated at Roland-Garros, in 2019, ed.). But this court should have been called Yannick Noah. It took several years for Gilles Torreton to be elected president of the FFT [Fédération française de tennis] two years ago, he decides to celebrate Yannick’s victory. It is very important to him that there is something left of him and of those who accompanied him at Roland-Garros.

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