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November 2, 2015

Yannick Noah

Paris, France

THE MODERATOR: Questions for Yannick.

Q. Good afternoon, Yannick. If you ask for so many players for the first day, is it because you want to have a more numerous team and you want the trust of everyone?
YANNICK NOAH: Yes. I want trust also, but I also want to show that all the players are involved, and everyone has to think about the team. It was a goal for everyone. Some have a place in the team. Others have to fight for it.
So it's a broader team. There will be four specific players for doubles and other players there will always be able to play the singles. So most players who were there will at some time or the other have a chance to play.

Q. Does it mean that some of them were sure that they would be selected and maybe there should be more competition?
YANNICK NOAH: I always work that way. For me, it's a starting point. There might have been that, as you say, but there's also other things. There are some players that I don't know at all. The idea is not to be in March with a sort of magical recipe to win.
My job is to motivate the players, and before I can motivate them, I need to get to know them. And this can happen not only on the court, but out of the courts. I need to talk with them.
I tell you, some of them I don't know. I knew their parents, but I don't know them. And also, I need to know their coach, their girlfriend, everyone around them. You need to know them as a person, too. This is why I wanted to meet them for the first time.

Q. How was the atmosphere? How would you describe the exchange?
YANNICK NOAH: It was quiet. My real job is going to start on the week we will meet, but I wanted to say how I was going to work. There are a certain number of things I wanted to change. I wanted players to be ready. I didn't want to have players that would be getting treatment for an injury who will not be ready mentally. I want players ready, and I want to create a competitiveness for the singles and for the doubles among the players.

Q. For the doubles, Guy really tried to get the players playing doubles on the tour, and they are not playing together, for example, here in Bercy this year. So do you believe it's only on the tour that you can learn to build up a doubles team and win in Davis Cup?
YANNICK NOAH: Well, the tie is in several months, but some players do play doubles together. One is injured, though, the one playing with Roger‑Vasselin. There is a second team and a third team like Jo and Richard. I saw many of their matches, and I believe this is a good team because the individuals are good and they can also improve playing together. Because even if they are good single players, they can also improve playing together in doubles.
If we have a 10‑day training camp, they will have some time to do that, but it is important for me that they play on the tour together. They are not playing this week, but they still have some time ahead of them.

Q. Did you describe in details your plan that you will follow for that week?
YANNICK NOAH: No, we'll have time to talk about that in the future. The goal for me was to make everyone feel responsible and show all the players that were at that meeting that they had a possibility to be selected. I wanted to show that for me, there was no politically correct selection. I will choose the players that are in good shape at a given time.
Sometimes I selected players that surprised people from the outside. And even if sometimes it might cost us one or two matches, there are a certain number of principles we need to abide by and we should keep. If we start compromising, then we lose authority, we lose the sense of purpose, and we will lose the general orientation I'm trying to keep.
So my mode of selection must be understood by everyone beforehand so there will be no surprises and the players won't be surprised. That's why I wanted to talk with them.
It's going to be very simple. Three weeks before, the players concerned, I will call them and I will wait and expect them to be ready on the given day, either for the Saturday or the Sunday.
In the past and even when I was playing, certain players trained in the training camp or the training session, and they were not fully ready. I believe that if you want to be ready on the Friday, on the Saturday, and on the Sunday, you need to be ready. And I want the players selected to be ready to play three days. I can't hear about someone who can't play the final because he's tired.
So if we have good sessions on the Monday, on the Tuesday, if we work well, we have more chances of being ready on the Friday. I don't want homeopathic training sessions. We have four matches to win, and we come and we're ready. And if we are not ready, others will be. So of course for that you need to make some sacrifices.
If you're motivated, you do need to make sacrifices for your schedule, for your preparation. Sometimes on certain tournaments it might be interesting to play some tournaments. Financially it might be more attractive, but you have to build up your schedule around the Davis Cup if you really ‑‑if we decide all together that one goal is to win the Davis Cup, then we have to make that kind of sacrifices.
And of course the person who will go and play on a tournament that has a different surface from the Davis Cup tie the week before, will know he will not be selected. And after we will do some specific work. So the first thing we need to do is to set the basis.

Q. The players had questions, so comments? Did they express them to you?
YANNICK NOAH: They listened a lot. It was cute and they were a bit shy. It was cute. A brave one asked me what I was going to do for my singing tours, was I going to have some concerts on the Davis Cup ties. This made us feel more relaxed.
We talked about the staff, the medical staff, too. There are things that have been in existence for 15 years, and a certain number of them I wanted to change for the good. So of course I give intensely my opinion, and then Arnaud, the technical director, will make the final decision.

Q. About the medical staff, what are you going to change exactly?
YANNICK NOAH: Well, they are followed, the players are followed, even when they are not on a Davis Cup tie, before the captain decided whether they needed medical follow‑up or whether a physio needed to be there.
Well, I said my job was to make sure that the players would be ready for the four weeks, plus one week ahead of each tie. So that's eight weeks for the whole year. The rest is not my business.
Until now there was a Davis Cup staff that was following the place outside of those periods.

Q. Talking about the staff, about the choices that guided you, Cedric, Xavier Moreau, Loïc Courteau?
YANNICK NOAH: Well, what can be bothering in the team is too many habits. If you have habits, sometimes it can be positive, but it can also be negative. So I wanted to change a certain number of things from the information I had gotten, but also because I knew that some players for a certain number of years didn't always have the right attitude on the court when they were wearing the shirt of the French team.
I think sometimes we were a bit underneath of what we should have given. So I said that I thought that for certain matches, the players were not ready because of their behavior, so I wanted to change that. And this is the reason why I chose a staff that seemed the best for the Davis Cup team, one that also helped us win the Fed Cup, Loïc Courteau is a very good coach. I have a very good communication with him. I know things are clear between us.
There is a mutual trust, a total trust. Cedric will be there more often for the follow‑up. I mean, all of them have experience. Guy, Henri and Cedric have the best results, the best career for the past 30 and 40 years. I don't know if I said that last time, but I was sort of ‑‑I was more interested in the physical aspect, and the mental aspect was interesting.
But on the technical part, I was maybe not as experienced, and I thought he would do the job very well. He would be able to follow the players on a regular basis. For physical training, I worked with Xavier for a very long time. He's been with the players for a long time and he has an experience in Fed Cup, too.
So I wanted to be with people that I knew well. I didn't know the physios very well, but they were generally and widely accepted, so we will need to adjust a little bit. But I don't need, of course, to explain their job. They know what it is. But the work is not only to do physio, but also I want an environment where everyone is looking at the same goal. And the doctor is our doc, of us, of our children. He was always present in all our adventures, and he has a very interesting opinion as far as I'm concerned, so I wanted to keep the doc.
And Poupon for the stringing. He's one of the best. He's part of the family. There's no reason to change just for the sake of changing. If he's the best, he's the best.

Q. After that first exchange you had with the players for the first time, did you talk about the surface? Did you go into the details of this first tie or did this stay on a more general basis?
YANNICK NOAH: We talked about the balls, we talked about the courts of course.

Q. So what?
YANNICK NOAH: Well, there is a protocol. The Federation is deciding. I don't want to talk in the name of my employer, but there are always two aspects. We are a complete team. We can play on any surface. We have players able to play on any surface, and I'm sure this will be an asset when we will play outdoors and when we will not be able to choose the surface.
As to some players, they have some specificity. They have very precise talents, and they like some surfaces better than others. Here we are going to play against aggressive players that are tall, so this is why we have chose the surface. I'm sure you guess.

Q. Sometimes you talk about some failing attitudes. Could you say exactly what didn't work in the past years? Did you talk about this or did you just make general observations?
YANNICK NOAH: The general goal was to have all the players. Richard is part of the team, and I wanted him to be also with all the others. But when I'm talking to the group, I am always thinking about those who played in the past years and those who will play in the future, and Richard brought many points but lost many, too.
So he was in the semis in Basel, very good, but I spoke individually to some of them. Not all of them. It was Friday, Saturday? I spoke with six of them, very precisely. What I was saying from the start is that they had to be responsible and act responsible. Everybody is responsible. Arnaud paid for everyone, but it's not because Arnaud is not there anymore that others can deny their responsibilities. They need to be responsible at a certain stage.
We need to say things clearly. Well, what is done is done, but at least we need to build on the past mistakes and learn the lessons, so when time will come, we will talk about it.
THE MODERATOR: Last question?

Q. We say that ITF could change the Davis Cup format very soon. So does this mean the French team should need to win the title within the next two years quickly?
YANNICK NOAH: If the format changes, it will be a catastrophe for me, because one week of Davis Cup is 134 countries. It's not only the World Group. There are second divisions between Zimbabwe and Egypt, and it's very good for tennis.
And for me, the Tennis Federation is not only the World Group and the final and the semifinal and us. They are all the others. And this is what makes this event extremely beautiful. There are about 134 countries. I don't want to say a wrong figure, but it will be really a pity if they couldn't play anymore.

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