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Tennis Podcast: Courageous Yannick Noah inspires France to Davis Cup glory again

The first time Yannick Noah captained France to Davis Cup glory he was still young enough to be playing, his son - the New York Knicks basketball player Joakim - was just six, and the Euro was still seven years away from replacing the Franc.

The first time Yannick Noah captained France to Davis Cup glory he was still young enough to be playing, his son - the New York Knicks basketball player Joakim - was just six, and the Euro was still seven years away from replacing the Franc.

Twenty six years later, after two decades of success as a singer, Noah has returned to tennis and the Davis Cup captain’s chair to repeat the magic of 1991 and 1996.

In ’91 it was a case of inspiring Henri Leconte to rise from his hospital bed after back surgery and Guy Forget to overcome big match fears to reach his potential. Both players defeated a 20-year-old Pete Sampras, and the United States of America, in the final.

In ’96, he took France to the home of another great Davis Cup nation, Sweden, and his team won in a fifth and deciding rubber with Arnaud Boetsch overcoming Nicklas Kulti 10-8 in a fifth and deciding set.

Today, the dreadlocks may have been replaced by a slightly thinning, greying head of hair, but his ability to say just the right thing, at just the right time, in just the right way, remains. As does his preparedness for making big decisions. 

On the eve of France’s clash with Belgium on Thursday, Noah shocked the assembled media by revealing  that he had decided to split up a former World No 1 doubles pairing - he dropped Nicolas Mahut and called up Richard Gasquet to play alongside Pierre-Hugues Herbert. Emotional scenes followed as Mahut was shown on TV crying at the opening ceremony, alongside another ditched team member, Julien Benneteau, who retires this year.

Herbert and Gasquet went on to defeat the Belgian doubles pairing, Joris De Loore and Ruben Bemelmans in four sets, but Lucas Pouille eventually finished the job in the fifth rubber on Sunday. 

In an exclusive interview with the Telegraph Tennis Podcast’s Catherine Whitaker after France’s victory, Noah admitted that he had been sweating over his doubles decision.

“It’s difficult because sometimes when you make these decisions you feel a little lonely, it’s kind of scary, but people were saying to me ‘listen to your heart’,” said Noah. “The problem was that I was the only one that felt this way. But I ask my players to be courageous on the court so I tried to be courageous with my decisions. So I went with team that I ‘felt’, and thank God it worked.”

In the interview, Noah goes on to talk about why this victory means so much to him, how impressed he was with Belgian No 1 David Goffin, who won both of his singles rubbers without dropping a set, and how he believes Pouille, who struck the decisive blows for France in the fifth rubber will now ‘ride this wave and have a beautiful career’.

Tennis Podcast hosts Whitaker and David Law also give their views on a tumultuous weekend, and we hear from a devastated Belgium captain, Johan Van Herck on where it went wrong. 

The Tennis Podcast was produced daily throughout the Davis Cup final, weekly in 2017, and daily during the Grand Slam tournaments, with more than 100 editions available to download, free, over the course of the year.

The podcast is produced in association with Telegraph Sport and Eurosport and will launch its second annual crowdfunding campaign on Friday 1st December to fund its 2018 season. www.TheTennisPodcast. net.

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