Rolex Paris Masters – The galley continues but Pouille endures: “He lives great moments, that’s what motivates him”

He got a wildcard, but not for the main picture. Lucas Pouille will play well for Bercy: he was invited to play there in the standings, something that had not happened to him for seven years. Then, young hopeful of French tennis, he got out before falling in the round of 16 against a certain Roger Federer. If this year he will not be able to face the Swiss legend, it is a safe bet that the Nordist would sign to complete this course, he who, however, has reached the half (Australian Open 2019) and two quarterfinals (Wimbledon and US Open 2016) Grand Slam meanwhile. Again, because since then fate has been fierce.

For two years and a first alert on his right elbow that had forced him to stop the 2019 exercise in Shanghai, Pouille is simply struggling to stay a tennis player. This chronic injury, which eventually forced him to undergo surgery in the summer of 2020, coupled with the coronavirus pandemic, cost him an entire season at the end of which he separated from Amélie Mauresmo, his then coach. which he could not continue. follow him on the circuit with health restrictions for family reasons. He is associated with a duo of coaches, Thierry Ascione and Nicolas Renavand, who the former 10th player in the world has launched, therefore, the challenge of a comeback in 2021.

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Repeated physical problems and lack of confidence: a frustrated comeback

In preparation for December 2020, we went slowly, with intermediate ballsrelates Nicolas Renavand. He had implemented a new gesture in the service to protect his elbow, so he had pulled her shoulder a little. Gradually, he recovered physically with the resumption of the Challenger competition in Quimper. He was advancing quite a bit, he was even playing very well again. The clay court season was promising, he had even won two games in Monte Carlo. “

Yes, but then during those exciting eighth Rock finals against Alejandra Davidovich Fokina (6-2, 7-6 defeat), his body betrayed him again. “He stumbles a little, wants to catch up and tears his obliques, a tear in his abs 5 centimeters by 2. He splashes all his season on the ground where he has to heal as quickly as possible with Roland-Garros. who was coming. He deals with the hyperbaric chamber, he goes pretty fast, but he only has one training match in Belgrade. And at Roland, he plays with a good Pablo Cuevas and gets a good prisoner in the first round. It’s a game that hurts“, details his coach.

This will be the story of his 2021 season. Between rebuilding, gradually increasing the level of play and new injury. Later, for example, during the American summer at Winston Salem, Pouille managed to get out of the standings, before winning in the 1st round against Feliciano López and then advancing well in the 2nd against Daniel Evans by 6-4, 4 – 0. But when it came to taking the push, his back was blocked, condemning him to impotence in the second half of the match (defeat 4-6, 6-4, 6-1). A misfortune that partly explains his inability to conclude a first round of the US Open that stretched his arms – he had scored two points with 5-3 in the 4th set before losing by five – to Albert Ramos. Vinolas.

At a loss, Pouille ended up giving in: his defeat against Evans in pictures

From the largest courts in the world to the mandatory passage through the anonymity of the Challengers

A season is made of shifts, and the northerner has never been able (known?) To catch the right ones. “After the small hopes, there has always been a small injury, a small thing. He is disappointed, but we must continue, there is no other wayRenavand points out that before Bercy, his record in 2021 is not very bright on the ATP circuit: 5 wins for 14 losses (including 12 in the 1st round) and a ranking (153 players in the world) that forces him to return with the Challengers in the last few weeks.

Meanwhile returning to the ATP 250 in Metz in September, Pouille hoped to accumulate enough points to regain the Top 100 by the end of the year and a place in the table of the Australian Open 2022. But he lacked regularity, not to mention the mental difficulty of chaining these anonymous tournaments for a player who has known the biggest arenas in the world.

I find him brave, because he always manages to start again, especially in the Challengers. Do one or two of them from time to time to recover well, but start chaining them as the end of the season is different. He is full of good will, that is not the problem: in the first he reached the final (beaten by Benjamin Bonzi in Cassis, editor’s note), in the second, fourth, then it was more complicated. He had minor heel and back pain in Mouilleron le Captif again“, explains Nicolas Renavand.

Lucas Pouille during the Rennes Challenger in 2021

Credit: Imago

When he loses, he finds his little girl, which allows him to play less

His service, a real launch pad for his punch game, is still missing: the change of gesture to save his elbow is probably the cause. Pouille has regained his power, but lacks accuracy (percentage from first to half stick), which can make him negative in his attitude on the court. Added to this is some mental wear and tear linked to the length of the season and the particular conditions of a circuit still subject in part to the limitations of the coronavirus. Father since January, Pouille also suffered from not seeing his daughter Rose as much as he would have liked. Does this mean that motivation is less strong than when everything revolved around tennis, which could also explain your difficulty climbing the court?

Your coach doesn’t think so. “It gave him a balance to have that base. When he loses, he returns home, sees his little one, also allows him to play. But he returns to the circuit because at the age of 27 he still has things to give ”. When we beat Rafael Nadal in the Grand Slam, which is more after five sets, we’re not really the type to give up. Then, during this 2016 US Open, Pouille pretended to be the heiress of the Tsonga-Monfils-Gasquet-Simon quartet. On it would depend the French results at the highest level.

Five years later, he is a long way from that, while tricolor tennis would really need the Nordic at its best. Unless you’re in for a big, pleasant surprise, he won’t be in the Top 100 in early 2022, which could call into question his participation in the Australian Open. Competing in the standings is not a major obstacle, but Pouille must also guarantee that he will play enough matches to justify the trip. Everything will therefore depend on the rest of the tournaments scheduled for January at the Antipodes.

A promising new physical box to relaunch

Therefore, the short-term outlook is not necessarily encouraging. But not everything is so gloomy. “On the physical, muscular basis, in terms of his weight – he had gained a lot during his white year – he returned to his level of form. He did a series of physical tests with his coach Xavier Moreau and even surpassed some values ​​recorded in 2018 when he was very well. It has become a plane again physically and at the level of the strikes, it is the same“, emphasizes Nicolas Renavand.

And if the physique goes, everything can go on for Pouille whose first goal will be to get out of the vicious circle of the Challengers in 2022, finding the Top 100. Once you reach this first stage, all dreams will be allowed. The ones I had touched with my finger a few years ago.

We will never be able to take away from him what he did. He’s not a player with potential and he’s stuck in the top 150 in the world, he’s not a loser. He has done exceptional things and has only been back in difficult conditions for 11 months. We must continue. The ultimate goal is to relive great moments of the Grand Slam, redo the second, fourth, middle weeks. That’s why he trains and keeps striving. “

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