PARIS (AP) — Yannick Noah, the last Frenchman to win a Grand Slam tournament, was appointed as the country’s Davis Cup captain on Monday.
Noah replaced Arnaud Clement, who was fired last week following a disappointing campaign and growing tension between him and the players.
Noah, who has reinvented himself into a successful singer but remains a highly popular figure in French tennis circles, will captain the team for the third time after guiding France to Davis Cup titles in 1991 and 1996.
His biggest success as a player came when he won the French Open in 1983 for his only Grand Slam title. His son, Joakim Noah, is a two-time NBA All-Star for the Chicago Bulls.
The French tennis federation said in a statement that Noah will be in charge of the Davis Cup “for the 2016 campaign.”
France last won the Davis Cup in 2001 and finished runner-up three times since, in 2002, 2010 and 2014, when Clement led the team to the final. After the loss to Switzerland last year, Noah had already expressed his interest in taking over, on the condition that players supported his nomination.
France’s 3-1 loss to Britain in the quarterfinals this summer was a key factor in the federation’s decision to sack Clement, whose deteriorated relationship with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga also weakened his position.
“I think some (players) asked for a change,” Clement said last week. “But a vast majority of players supported me and I believe they would have been happy to continue with me next year.”
Noah helped France create one of the biggest upsets in Davis Cup history when it captured its first title in 59 years by beating the defending champion United States in 1991, earning a reputation as a miracle man. He is also a natural showman whose eccentricities still delight the fans. After Guy Forget beat Pete Sampras to clinch a 3-1 victory in the 1991 final, Noah led his players in a conga-line dance to the strains of his reggae-style pop song “Saga Africa,” the first hit of his singing career.
But Noah’s outspokenness also caused him problems. He provoked an outcry when he accused Spanish athletes of widespread doping in an interview with a French newspaper in 2011. Those accusations drew criticism from Spanish athletes such as 10-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal, and from the French Tennis Federation, which distanced itself from Noah.