A resurgent Lucas Pouille is fast reaping the rewards of hiring former Australian Open champion Amelie Mauresmo in the off-season, with the Frenchman downing Borna Coric to reach the quarterfinals at Melbourne Park on Monday.
After five straight opening-round defeats at the Australian Open, the Frenchman’s 6-7(4) 6-4 7-5 7-6(2) win over the No.11 seed pitted him into a third grand slam quarterfinal, his first since the US Open in 2016.
After a season in which the 24-year-old’s ranking plummeted from No.10 to No.32, Pouille approached two-time slam champion Mauresmo to come on board in December.
While early days, a fourth straight Australian Open match win – including a dramatic five-setter over Australian Alexei Popyrin – was a promising upside.
“It feels great,” Pouille said. “It has been a tough match against Borna, he’s oe of the best in the world.
“Last time we played him I lost 6-4 in the third so I knew what to expect. Now I’m just very happy to be in quarters.”
A beaten Pouille was forced to watch on as Coric and his Croatian teammates celebrated winning the Davis Cup on the Frenchman’s home soil last November.
While Pouille and Coric did not play against each other in the final, there was some sense of revenge on Melbourne Arena.
“The atmosphere is great here,” Pouille said. “In previous round I played Popyrin, an Australian guy, and the atmosphere was just electric.”
He now must notch his first win in four meetings with Milos Raonic, The Canadian has not dropped a set to the Frenchman in three prior meetings, including in the first round at Australian Open 2016.
“He’s playing well,” Pouille said. “Saw his match against Zverev. Going to be ready for it and try to reach my first semifinal.”
Coric had won his two prior encounters with Pouille, both on hard courts, and made the better start of the two when he broke in the opening game.
After being reeled back in and forced into an opening-set tie-break, it was the 22-year-old who inched ahead 4-3 when he punched away a backhand volley in behind Pouille.
Back-to-back net-cord shots aided Coric’s cause before he took it on his ninth ace.
Coric’s errors began to mount as he conceded the second set and when he sent a short forehand cross-court to a waiting Pouille, the Frenchman passed with ease to break at 5-all in the third, prompting a racquet demolition job from the Croat.
Pouille served out the set with his 13th ace and continued his charge, breaking in the opening game of the fourth set.
Despite drawing level at 4-all on a brilliantly angled cross-court drop shot, Coric’s consistency at the crunch proved telling.
The Frenchman secured the contest when Coric pushed long; his 55th unforced error of the match.
“A few points here and there,” Pouille said. “First breaker I had 5-4 and made two lets and the ball went out it was just a few details that makes the difference.”
Source: Dan Imhoff