Yannick Noah wore the colors of his native France yesterday as he beat Aaron Krickstein, 6-2, 6-4, in the quarterfinals of the D.C. National Bank Classic, his white shirt sporting a red panel on one side and a blue on the other, much like the flag of his homeland.
The man who won the adulation of his countrymen in 1983 when he became the first Frenchman since Marcel Bernard in 1946 to win the French Open title at Roland Garros now is an expatriate of sorts, having left his fame in Paris for the anonymity of New York City.
Noah's victory at the French was his third championship and fourth final in six weeks, and it made him the first Frenchman of the modern era to rank in the world's top 10. People cried in the stands when Noah defeated Mats Wilander in an emotional match.
But after that victory at Roland Garros, Noah did not win another Grand Prix tournament until this year's Italian Open on May 19, the day after his 25th birthday. His best showing in 1984 was as a runner-up, at LaQuinta.
But Noah, who will face Jimmy Connors in a semifinal match here tonight, once again is returning to the upper echelons of the game.
Now ranked No. 10 in the world, Noah said yesterday that much of his trouble was caused by injuries.
"I've been injured a lot and that was a problem," he said. "It's really hard to enjoy the game when you're not well. To play well you have to play at least two months without being injured. This week is the first time I've been well. I'm happy to be this way and I want to stay healthy."
Among the injuries was a back problem that bothered him the last six months of 1984. "I couldn't sit more than 10 minutes," he said. The most recent injuries were to his knee and groin, sustained after Wimbledon.
Noah seems to have escaped the pressures placed on him by his countrymen by moving to New York.
"It was a lot of pressure for me being in France," Noah said. "I was dreaming about winning the French Open. In my dreams I just held the cup in my hands. I didn't have dreams about 10 photographers hiding behind trees at my house trying to take my picture or people following me on motorbikes."
Alain Frachon, a reporter for the Agence France Presse, said France was in "collective hysteria" after Noah's Open victory, and he recalled a news conference in late 1983 when an emotional Noah said he couldn't take the situation in Paris anymore.
Thus the move to New York, where Noah lives with his family in a loft apartment in the Soho district.
"I decided not to sleep in Paris, but to spend my nights in New York," Noah said. "I spend most of my time at tournaments anyway."
Noah also said being married has affected the way he plays. His wife, Cecilia Rodhe, has been with him for two years. The couple's first son, Joakim Simon, was born Feb. 25.
"When I was injured, she was with me," Noah said. "It (the Italian Open) was very good for us. It was the first tournament we won together."
The newest member of the family also made him work harder, Noah said. "It was very good for me to know I was not working for myself."
Now, Noah says he needs consistency.
"I think I can improve," he said. "I'm still missing some easy shots but it's getting better."
D.C. National Bank Tennis Classic cochairman Donald Dell said yesterday the 1986 tournament will be held the last week in July and also indicated tournament officials are leaning toward continuing the event on clay.
Changes in the 1987 tennis calendar are expected to affect the scheduling of the summer circuit.
Dell said a final decision on changing the playing surface at Rock Creek Tennis Stadium would be made after those changes are completed. "We've had a year of evaluation on whether it makes sense to go to a hard court," Dell said. "The clay surface has been a fixture here. Right now, we're more closely aligned with clay."