'Mind-blowing' Roger Federer has normalized the exceptional, says Yannick Noah

  • 1983 Roland Garros champion Yannick Noah talks about the ability of Roger Federer to conjure magic out of thin air.
  • The 60-year-old also spoke about tactics to ruffle players like Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem who stand far away from the baseline.
Modified 19 May 2020, 16:50 IST

Roger Federer
Roger Federer

On the occasion of his 60th birthday, 1983 Roland Garros winner Yannick Noah had a freewheeling interview with French daily L'Equipe - where he gushed over the brilliance of Roger Federer. The Frenchman also talked at length about Rafael Nadal, mentioning how certain unconventional tactics can help disrupt the Spaniard's rhythm.

Noah became the first player from France to win a Grand Slam title in the Open Era when he toppled the teenage defending champion Mats Wilander in the 1983 Roland Garros final.

The Frenchman is one of only two players from his country to win the singles title at his home Grand Slam tournament, the other being Mary Pierce (2000).

Roger Federer does things that I don't understand: Yannick Noah

Roger Federer
Roger Federer

Noah first talked about how much respect he has for the 'Big 3' of tennis - Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. He feels the trio have lifted each other's level by repeatedly running into each other, which in turn has helped them turn into the most dominant forces in tennis.

"I have a lot of respect for the top 3," Noah said. "They have imposed themselves on the sport because they constantly play against each other."

But the 60-year-old then added that Roger Federer is in a different league altogether, something that even his two closest rivals Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic can't boast of.

"Well, of course, I put Roger aside," Noah said. "He has normalized the exceptional, so much so that it becomes mind-blowing. I still (like to) hit a set with him because there is always a point when he is going to get something out of me that I don't understand. Damn, dude, how does he do that!"

Roger Federer, at 38, is still conjuring magic on the tennis court. The 20-time Grand Slam champion beat Steve Johnson in the first round of the 2020 Australian Open to become the first player in history to win singles matches in four different decades.

Noah further said that Roger Federer is the epitome of longevity. The tennis pro turned singer lauded Federer for his ability to remain competitive at an age most professional players are many years into their retirement.

Yannick Noah endorses tactic of serving under-arm against Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal (L) and Yannick Noah
Rafael Nadal (L) and Yannick Noah

In 2019, Roger Federer returned to Roland Garros for the first time since a straight-sets quarterfinal defeat to compatriot Stan Wawrinka in 2015. Defying all expectations, the Swiss reached his first Roland Garros semifinal in seven years where he went down to eventual champion Rafael Nadal.

Federer has suffered his fair share of Roland Garros defeats at the hands of his nemesis, having lost four finals to the Spaniard in the early part of his career. Rafael Nadal has dominated all of his rivals in Paris, and his reign doesn't seem likely to end any time soon.

Noah spoke about the difficulty players faced while going up against the 12-time Roland Garros champion in the French capital. The 1983 Roland Garros winner opined that players with unconventional tactics like the under-arm serve can throw Rafael Nadal off-balance as the Spaniard stands several feet behind the baseline.

The 60-year-old Frenchman also spoke about the mercurial Nick Kyrgios and the efficacy of the Australian's under-arm serve against players like Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem, who stand far behind the baseline on the red dirt. Kyrgios used the tactic to good effect in Acapulco last year, which infuriated Rafael Nadal greatly.

"He (Rafael Nadal) offers something else," Noah said. "When I see that he is serving under-arm because Rafa is standing six meters behind the baseline, I go crazy. I get mad with rage because of the reaction of people who say it's disrespectful. These people don't understand anything (about tennis). Nothing!" 
"If you play 'normally' against Rafa, you lose 3, 3 and 3 after having successfully completed a great match," Noah added. "If you don't try anything, you have absolutely no chance. I really believe that if you work it seriously, serving under-arm can be a weapon against a Rafa or a Thiem, who stand very far behind the baseline (on clay).”

Published 19 May 2020, 16:50 IST
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