Becker Downs Air Noah--for Good? : Tennis: Frenchman’s head doesn’t seem to be in the game anymore, and he’s thinking about retiring.


Are we seeing the last of Yannick Noah?

Boris Becker defeated him in the second round of the U.S. Open Thursday and then talked as if Noah had just packed up his dreadlocks and headed off into the sunset.

“I remember many, many things,” Becker said.

Like what?

“His hair . . . just his whole personality,” Becker said. “Just nice to see him on the tennis court . . . his looks.”

Noah stuffed his racket into his bag, draped a towel around his neck and walked off the court. He may not be coming back.


Noah lost to Becker, 6-4, 6-2, 7-6 (7-2), and said afterward that he is thinking about retiring in a few months.

“First, I’ll try to finish the rest of the year, then decide if I want to play any more,” Noah said.

“It’s all so frustrating,” he said. “I’m playing like . . . “

Tendinitis in both knees has taken some of the spring out of Noah’s high-jumping act on the court. In his prime one of the most acrobatic players on the tour, Noah was always picture perfect, his dreadlocks flying, every time he leaped to crush a high volley.

Lately, Noah’s air show has been grounded. His loss to Becker continued a streak of bad results that began in early February. In Noah’s last 11 tournaments, he has lost in the first or second round 10 times.

Since the French Open in early June, Noah has played four matches.


“That’s just not enough on any level, and it’s showed,” said Dennis Ralston, who has coached Noah since last year’s U.S. Open.

Ralston is parting with Noah and said the 30-year-old Frenchman must decide what he wants to do.

“With Yannick, he’s such an emotional player, he has to make up his mind,” Ralston said. “He’s in the twilight of his career and he’s just got to decide which way to go.

“I hope he keeps playing because he’s such a colorful figure for the game. But he’s got to jump in with both feet. You can’t one day say I want to be in my boat and the next day be committed.

“It’s just a question if he wants to commit mentally to it,” Ralston said.

Noah has won 23 singles titles in his career, including the 1983 French Open, and peaked in the rankings at No. 3 in 1986.

Instead of tennis dominating his life, Noah has branched out to embrace more personal interests. He owns homes in Montreux, Switzerland, and Paris but enjoys nothing more than kicking back on his boat in Guadalupe.

As Noah explained: “I am interested in other things besides tennis.”

Becker thinks he knows what is missing from Noah’s game. “His mind was better then, probably,” he said.

Joining the second-seeded Becker in the third round were Andre Agassi, Brad Gilbert, Aaron Krickstein and Michael Chang.

Agassi got past Petr Korda of Czechoslovakia, 7-5, 5-7, 6-0, 6-4, Gilbert defeated Rick Leach, 7-6 (7-4), 6-4, 6-2; Krickstein beat Jason Stoltenberg, 6-4, 6-2, 6-4, and Chang downed Jimmy Arias, 7-6 (7-3), 6-3, 6-2.

Although Agassi won his without much trouble, but for a moment he was one step away from being defaulted.

Chair umpire Wayne McKewen gave Agassi a warning for an audible obscenity in the 11th game of the second set, then temporarily assessed Agassi a point penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct when he said Agassi spit at him on the changeover.

One more code violation and Agassi would have been automatically defaulted. But supervisor Ken Farrar was summoned to the court. Agassi admitted spitting, but denied spitting at McKewen.

“My mouth got cottony,” Agassi said. “Some of it hit him, but I wasn’t directing it at him.”

Farrar rescinded McKewen’s ruling and removed the point penalty. Korda twisted his ankle in the eighth game of the final set but finished the match.

“The umpires are bad,” Korda said.

Jim Courier, seeded 14th, was upset by Gary Muller, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (8-6), 7-6 (7-5). Muller, a South African who lives in Los Angeles, said he played the most important points better than Courier.

“Maybe I was just meant to win today,” Muller said.

Steffi Graf, Monica Seles, Zina Garrison and Jennifer Capriati moved swiftly into the third round. Graf served four aces and dispatched 18-year-old Aussie Rachel McQuillan, 6-1, 6-3; Seles overpowered Ros Fairbank-Nideffer, 6-2, 6-2; Garrison rolled past 16-year-old Angelica Gavaldon, 6-4, 6-0, and Capriati defeated Patricia Hy, 6-3, 6-1.

Hy may have applied only slight pressure to her, but that doesn’t mean Capriati feels none. In fact, she said there is pressure on her to conform to an image as a “perfect” teen-ager.

“No one is perfect,” Capriati said. “I don’t think I’m perfect, but the media have put it out like that.

“I’m just a normal teen, but I’m not always a good kid. Sometimes I get into trouble, maybe in school I goof off or something. The worst thing I ever did? Maybe in school I was talking too much and was thrown out of class.”

Seles found peace in her time on the court, due to the fact that New York Mayor David Dinkins had intervened to limit the noise from airplanes using nearby LaGuardia Airport.

“We have one person to thank,” Seles said. “Major Dinkinson.”