© AFP/Getty Images

Lucas Pouille celebrates beating Milos Raonic on Wednesday as he continues his dream run at the Australian Open.

Pouille: 'I Had Low Expectations'

Frenchman praises new coach Mauresmo, turnaround in form

The form of Lucas Pouille coming into the Australian Open was a worry. With four straight losses, the main goal was to simply survive the first match, under the guidance of his new coach, former WTA No. 1 Amelie Mauresmo.

By Wednesday evening, 10 days into the first Grand Slam championship of the year, the Frenchman was a very different prospect. A player competing with confidence, showcasing the kind of form that had taken him to a career-high No. 10 in the ATP Rankings just 10 months earlier.

“Coming here the goal was not, ‘Okay, let's try to be second week or quarter-final,’” said Pouille, after his four-set win over Milos Raonic. “It was really to take it step-by-step and try to focus on my game, what I needed to do on the court and try to [replicate] what I worked so much during the pre-season.

“I had low expectations, for sure. I think if I asked someone, ‘What did you think I would do in this Australian Open?’ I'm not sure someone would have said semi-final or maybe more. There was some low expectation from outside of my team, even from myself. I was not expecting to do semis or quarters. I just wanted to take it step-by-step. The first goal of the tournament was to win the first match, and so on.”

Tennis Radio

The trigger for the turnaround in fortunes came against Alexei Popyrin in the Australian Open third round, a gritty five-set dual that Pouille won 7-6(3), 6-3. 6-7(10), 4-6, 6-3. “The five-set match against Popyrin gave me a lot of confidence,” he admitted on Wednesday. “I needed this kind of tough battle to bring my confidence back.” The 24-year-old then followed it up with wins over No. 11 seed Borna Coric and No. 16 seed Raonic for a place in the semi-finals.

You May Also Like: Determined Pouille Fights Into Australian Open Semi-finals

Last month Mauresmo, who coached former World No. 1 Andy Murray for two years until May 2016, came on board and Pouille immediately got to work. Pouille had split up his former coach, Emmanuel Planque, following a season that saw him drop to No. 32.

“I think she's bringing a lot of confidence to my game, to my personality, to my state of mind,” said Pouille. “The goal is to improve my tennis, to put what I work on during practice into the match. That gives me less pressure. I'm just trying to focus on my game, not on the consequences and the results.

“I think she’s just a great, great coach. [She is] really motivated. She's focused on every single ball during the practice. At the same time there is a cool atmosphere. We're not too serious when we were on the bench. We can laugh. We can make jokes. Once we go and hit the balls, we are really into it. That's good to have the good balance.”

Pouille, who had reached quarter-finals at Wimbledon and at the US Open in 2016, will now challenge World No. 1 and six-time former champion Novak Djokovic on Friday in Melbourne.

It’s quite the transformation for a player who experienced motivation issues last year. “I lost that joy being on the court, lost the joy going to practice, practice hard," said Pouille. "For some reason, I don't know really know why it happened, it did. Then you lose one match, two matches, three matches, then you lose confidence. It's tough to come back when you don't enjoy it.

“I took some time to think about myself, about my career, about what I wanted to do. I said, ‘Okay, you have maybe 10 more years on tour. Do you want to spend them like this or do you want to enjoy it? To enjoy playing on the biggest courts of the world in front of some unbelievable crowds, achieve some great goals, great titles.’”

“I said, ‘Okay, now you have to move your ass a little bit and go back to it. Even if you don't want to practice one day, don't do it. Just do it when you want.’ That's how I came back.”

More stories like this in: