MELBOURNE, Australia — Lucas Pouille, the brightest younger star in males’s tennis in France, was flickering.
Pouille, 24, reached a career-high rating of No. 10 in March, however didn’t win greater than two matches consecutively after that, ending the yr with a 14-17 run. Taking part in with out inspiration or perception, he slipped to No. 32 by the tip of the season.
“I misplaced confidence, after which I used to be not having fun with a lot being on court docket, being on tour,” he stated. “I didn’t actually need to play tennis.”
He needed to discover a resolution, he stated. “I needed to discover my pleasure of being on court docket.”
Pouille break up with Emmanuel Planque, his coach of six years, in November. Pouille, who had yearned to take a break from the tour however determined to complete the season so he may play within the Davis Cup ultimate, was on his personal for eight days. When he did choose up a racket, it was solely to play minitennis with mates.
However on the Monday after the Davis Cup ultimate, which France misplaced to Croatia, he met together with his staff’s captain-in-waiting, Amélie Mauresmo.
Pouille had one other provide: Coach him as an alternative.
“After we have been speaking to one another, it was this couple hours of speaking that basically had me pondering,” Mauresmo stated. “He had me pondering that he’s bold, that he needs to do every thing so as to be nearly as good as attainable. He type of satisfied me with what he was saying, that he was able to do all of the efforts and the laborious work which can be going with being on the prime, with digging deep to be at your finest.”
Stepping away from the Davis Cup place earlier than she even began was not a simple determination for Mauresmo, particularly contemplating the joy over her appointment because the nation’s first feminine captain. However it was made simpler, she stated, by the unconventional modifications coming to the competitors this season, which can scale back the ultimate rounds to a World Cup-style format performed at one web site, with three matches of best-of-three units in every pairing, as an alternative of 5 matches in a best-of-five format.
“I believe the captain’s function can be actually lowered,” Mauresmo, 39, stated. “What was attention-grabbing for me was all of the weeks of preparations, the three days of competitors, the best-of-five, constructing a staff all through a yr, and the home-and-away. For me, I grew up watching that. I grew up having the feelings that go together with it.”
“So I’ve little doubt that will probably be present, competitors for the gang, and they’ll in all probability placed on an enormous present or no matter. However as a captain, I didn’t really feel that the function was that essential.”
Pouille stated he was inspired by the assumption Mauresmo confirmed in him when she left such a high-profile alternative behind.
“That’s what I wished to have with me: somebody who believes in me, and who believes we are able to go very far collectively,” Pouille stated. “I’m very glad that she’s a part of it now, and we are able to work collectively, we are able to have the most effective outcomes attainable.”
Pouille is the one man within the ATP Tour’s prime 100 at present coached by a lady outdoors his quick household, however he stated Mauresmo’s gender was not a consideration in his determination to rent her.
“For me, it doesn’t matter if it’s a person, girl, grandfather, grandmother — I don’t care,” he stated. “So long as they know what they’re speaking about. In girls’s sports activities or males’s sports activities, in the long run you’re coping with the identical stuff on the court docket.
“Mentally, it’s the identical stuff. Technically, she is aware of tennis. She is aware of what I must do on the court docket to be higher. For me, that’s what’s essential.”
Pouille’s alternative of Mauresmo was the second high-profile hiring of a feminine coach in males’s tennis this decade. The primary was in 2014, when Andy Murray additionally employed Mauresmo.
Pouille’s determination generated far much less second-guessing than Murray’s, which was met with skepticism from each the information media and fellow gamers.
“The stress with Andy was super, and the criticism that went with it was large,” Mauresmo stated. “I knew I had lots to show, and I knew that each match he would play could be concerning the job I’d accomplished, or not accomplished, or may do higher. That was making it fairly troublesome, however fairly difficult as nicely, and I labored actually, actually laborious.”
Pouille stated most of the queries that got here together with his alternative have been extra inane than destructive.
“Lots of people have requested me: ‘Is it totally different that she’s a lady? What do you do — can she come within the locker room?’” he stated. “However what’s essential is what’s occurring on court docket, what’s occurring to prepare for the match, and what occurs after the match. I don’t care who’s within the locker room.”
Pouille stated that, for now, he appreciated the shortage of wasted time in his observe periods with Mauresmo, and in addition her drive and willingness to hitch him in his varied health and operating drills.
“You may see on the court docket that she’s a champion,” he stated. “The way in which she is on the court docket, the best way she’s dedicated to it, it’s simply exceptional.”
Pouille is hoping that Mauresmo’s teaching will help him return to the highest 10. Over the previous three a long time, French males’s tennis has packed the game’s peloton, but it surely has struggled to catapult anybody into common championship rivalry.
Pouille is considered one of 5 lively Frenchman who can declare to have made the highest 10, becoming a member of Richard Gasquet, Gilles Simon, Gaël Monfils and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Collectively, they’ve reached just one Grand Slam ultimate prior to now decade: when Tsonga completed because the runner-up on the 2008 Australian Open.
Mauresmo says she in all probability has explicit credibility in French tennis as a two-time Grand Slam singles champion and a former No. 1 participant, accomplishments that outshine these of all of the nation’s different gamers — male or feminine — in her lifetime. However she is unsure whether or not most males could be prepared to rent a lady with lower than hall-of-fame credentials.
“Most likely not but,” she stated. “Possibly not, however it is going to come. Possibly not within the subsequent two, three, 5 years, however it is going to come.”
Persistence additionally was required as Pouille began his 2019 season. He opened the yr by shedding all three matches he performed on the Hopman Cup, in addition to one other on the ATP match in Sydney. However on Tuesday on the Australian Open, he gained his opening match convincingly, 6-1, 7-5, 6-Four, over Mikhail Kukushkin.
Although he was relieved by the win, Pouille stated his confidence in his alternative of coach had by no means wavered.
“I do know it’s going to take time, coming from a yr the place it has been fairly troublesome for me,” he stated. “However I made a decision to work with Amélie as a result of I belief her.”