There were no tears shed for Yannick Noah today.
Instead, as he walked from the stadium court at Roland Garros early this evening, he heard cheers from all sides, as did the man who had just ended Noah's quest for a second French Open title.
The victor was Henri Leconte, Noah's friend, doubles partner and countryman, after five sets of brilliant tennis that was made more wonderful because the men kept both their humor and their sense of sportsmanship throughout. When it was over and Leconte had reached the quarterfinals, 6-3, 6-4, 6-7 (3-7), 4-6, 6-1, the two hugged each other at the net, then walked off together as the crowd screamed for them both.
"If tennis could be like that every day it would be fantastic," Leconte said. "I thought it was a great match for everyone."
Leconte was joined in the quarterfinals by top-seeded John McEnroe, who played well at the crucial moments during a 6-3, 7-5, 6-2 victory over Henrik Sundstrom, and by Joakim Nystrom and Mats Wilander, straight-set winners over Hans Gildemeister and Tomas Smid, respectively.
On the women's side, second-seeded Chris Evert Lloyd had an easier time defeating 15-year-old Steffi Graf than she had expected, winning 6-2, 6-3. Evert will play Terry Phelps in the quarterfinals because Phelps upset Carling Bassett today, 4-6, 6-0, 6-3.
The strangest victory of the day was Gabriela Sabatini's 6-1, 1-6, 7-5 defeat of Rosalyn Fairbank. Sabatini thought she had won the match in the 10th game of the last set, but ended up being called back to play further.
Leading 30-40 in the game, Sabatini hit a backhand wide, but there was no call. Fairbank played the ball back and Sabatini hit a winner. The umpire announced the match over. Sabatini came to net to shake hands but Fairbank protested. After a delay, Sabatini put on her jacket, picked up her rackets and left.
But the umpire, after consulting with the line judge, decided to play the point over. Fairbank won the replay and the game for 5-all. At that point, Sabatini, 15, showed her poise, hitting three winners in the next game and three in the last to win the set and the match.
"The call against the other girl was unfair," the young Argentine said. "I went by what they called."
McEnroe didn't play extraordinarily today but, as often happens, he had the answers when he needed them. Sundstrom is probably the most aggressive of the Swedes. He hits the ball with a lot of top spin and beat McEnroe in the Davis Cup final last December.
Today, in the second set, Sundstrom had six break points in three games -- including a set point -- but couldn't convert any.
There were, it seemed, almost no errors in the Noah-Leconte match. At 25, Noah is the reigning French hero. He broke a 37-year national drought by winning here in 1983 and when he steps on court, he is adored.
Leconte is 21, a star on the rise, handsome, with the shots to become a great player. Impatience has been his weakness in the past, a tendency to go for winners on every shot.
Today, he waited for the right moment most of the time. Noah found himself lunging, rolling and diving all over the clay as Leconte sprayed winners past him.
"When I went out, I didn't even want to think about the fact that I was playing Yannick," Leconte said. "I would have been too nervous. I just thought about my tactics and tried to block everything else out."
Noah knew early he was in trouble. "Henri has the talent to beat anybody when he plays like he did today," he said. "It seemed at times all he did was hit winners."
Leconte was one winner shy of making this a three-set match. He had five break points in the third set but converted none. Noah then played a superb tie breaker, attacking on every point and covering the net for dear life with the reach his 6-foot-4 height affords.
Noah ended the dramatic set with a reaching cross-court backhand volley. All a racing, diving Leconte got was a face and stomach full of clay dust. "I felt tired right then," he said. "I knew Yannick was cranked up and I felt weary because I had been so close to winning."
As Leconte walked out to begin the fourth set, the crowd was almost out of control. As Leconte waited for quiet, chair umpire Philippe Boivin called a point penalty on him for delaying. Both players immediately charged the chair. After a moment, Boivin relented.
Now, the crowd was whistling at Boivin. Again, Leconte waited. "Leconte, serve!" ordered Boivin. Leconte walked to the chair to argue. Again, Boivin called a penalty for delay. As Noah started toward him to argue, Leconte waved him off. Noah responded by telling Leconte to serve. He did and Noah let the ball go by to make the score 15-all.
Leconte raised his racket to salute Noah, who returned the wave. Then Leconte turned and bowed deeply to Boivin.
"What Yannick did was wonderful," Leconte said. "I think he showed again today what kind of person he is."
Noah also showed he can still play good tennis. In the fourth game of the set, he saved three break points from 0-40, then broke Leconte in the seventh game and won the set, 6-4. Leconte, it seemed, was out of gas.
Noah, too, was tired. He had played almost 4 1/2 hours Friday and now was past three hours today. Again, in the fourth game, he dug himself a 0-40 hole. Again, he saved two break points, making 10 in all.
But on the 11th try, Leconte finally came through. He lined up a forehand and when Noah leaned right, he slammed it left. Noah sprawled on the clay in his desperate attempt to get the ball but it whistled past for the break as Leconte pumped his fists in jubilation.
"I took no chances," Leconte said. "I just hit it as hard as I could."
He held at love to lead 4-1, then broke Noah at love, slamming four straight winners off Noah's first serves. Noah had one gasp left, hitting a gorgeous forehand down the line for a final break point, but Leconte nailed a serve and two backhand volleys. End of match.
"In the end, Henri was just too strong. I hope he goes very far in the tournament," Noah said with feeling. This day, tennis was again a gentlemen's game.