Pouille exceeds own expectations with run to Aus Open semis
After five straight first-round defeats at the Australian Open, few people - including Lucas Pouille himself - were anticipating his run to the last four in 2019.
Since his main-draw debut in 2014, the Frenchman had never won a match at Melbourne Park prior to this year's event, but Wednesday's four-set triumph over Milos Raonic propelled him into a maiden grand slam semi-final.
Awaiting the 28th seed is six-time champion Novak Djokovic, who was 6-1 4-1 up against Kei Nishikori in the day's second quarter-final when the Japanese retired through injury.
On top of his previously dismal record in Melbourne, Pouille came into the tournament having lost all four singles matches this season, and the world number 31 concedes you would have been hard pushed to find anyone willing to predict his run to the semis.
"I think if I asked someone, 'what did you think I would do?' I'm not sure someone would have said semi-final or maybe more," he told a news conference.
"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 step by step.
"The first goal of the tournament was to win the first match, and so on. When I played a good match, I had to focus on the second one, et cetera. The confidence comes back with victories. That's why I think I played a great match today, because I won four matches."
This is Pouille's first major under the coaching of Amelie Mauresmo, whom the 24-year-old says has made a significant difference to his game.
"Men are coaching women, so why not the contrary?" Pouille added. "As I said again and again, it's not about being a man or a woman, it's about knowing tennis, about having the good state of mind. She's a champion. She's a great coach.
"I think she's bringing a lot of confidence to my game, to my personality, to my state of mind."
And Pouille revealed how 2018 saw him lose a little bit of love for the game he has been playing for two thirds of his life.
"I guess maybe it happens during career. I played tennis for 16 years now. It was the first time that it happens to me, that I lost that joy being on the court, lost the joy going to practice," he said. "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 it came back."