Frenchman Yannick Noah is the first big name to confirm his participation in this year’s Grand Champions tennis tournament – the veterans’ competition that is played out every August at the Vale do Lobo tennis academy. Noah returns to Portugal to dispute the fourth edition of the tournament.His absence at last year’s event, comprehensively won by the German Michael Stich, was due to a motorcycle injury that resulted in a fracture to his right arm. Now aged 43, Noah gave one of the more memorable displays during the 2002 competition, fighting entertaining duels with the Iranian Mansour Bahrami and former Wimbledon champion John McEnroe.
Pedro Frazão, director and promoter of Grand Champions, said he was pleased by the news, referring to the Frenchman as: “A strong player in every aspect…renowned for the quality of his game, for the good relationship he has with journalists and for his easy interaction with the crowd.” The news that the ‘Bob Marley of tennis’ is set to return will surely please his fans.At the 2002 event, Noah marked his participation with a reggae concert at Vale do Lobo’s summer party.
The names of the other seven competitors in this year’s tournament are still unknown.Last year’s Portuguese participant was João Cunha e Silva, but it is rumoured that, this year, it might be the turn of Nuno Marques to make a wild-card entry. Another player rumoured to be considering an appearance is Boris Becker, the perennial Wimbledon favourite, who retired from the professional circuit two years ago.