Lucas Pouille hailed new coach Amelie Mauresmo for bringing him “a lot of confidence” after Wednesday becoming the first Frenchman to reach the semi-finals of the Australian Open since Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in 2010.
The 28th seed fought back from a break down in the first set to stun 16th seed Milos Raonic 7-6 (7/4), 6-3, 6-7 (2/7), 6-4 and reach the last four of a Slam for the first time.
The 24-year-old had never won a match at Melbourne Park before this year but will on Friday face Novak Djokovic for a place in the final.
“I think she’s bringing a lot of confidence to my game, to my personality, to my state of mind,” he said of the Frenchwoman, who won the singles crown at Melbourne Park in 2006.
“As I said at the beginning, the goal is not to reach the final, the semi-final, the goal is to improve my tennis, to put into a match what I work on during practice.
“That gives me less pressure. I’m just trying to focus on my game, not on the consequences and the results.”
Pouille recruited the double Grand Slam title winner Mauresmo to his team in the off-season after a splitting with long-time coach Emmanuel Planque.
Mauresmo, who also won Wimbledon in 2006, had in the past been the subject of criticism on social media while coaching Andy Murray, with some saying men could not be coached effectively by a woman.
“Men are coaching women, so why not the contrary? I mean, they don’t get it,” Pouille said, adding that more men should hire female coaches.
“As I said again and again, it’s not about being a man or a woman, it’s about knowing tennis,” said Pouille, who in March last year broke into the top 10 of the ATP Tour rankings for the first time.
“She’s a champion. She’s a great coach.”
Make him play
Currently ranked 31, Pouille arrived in Melbourne in poor form: he had lost all three of his singles matches at the Hopman Cup and suffered a first-round exit at the Sydney International.
“I just kept working hard. All the matches I decided to take step by step, give everything on every point and here I am.”
Former world number three Raonic raced to a 3-0 lead after breaking Pouille’s first service game as the Frenchman seemed to take a few minutes to adjust to the magnitude of the occasion on Rod Laver Arena.
Pouille soon settled into the match so effectively that he broke back at 5-3 down and took the set in a tiebreak on the back of 18 winners to only five unforced errors.
“I really wanted to return as much as possible and make him play, take care of my serve and not put too much pressure on myself,” said Pouille.
Pouille had equalled his best Slam performance by reaching the quarter-final and was aiming to become the first Frenchman to reach the last four at any major since Gael Monfils at the 2016 US Open.
An early break in the second put him in the driving seat. Raonic had to dig deep at 3-3, 15-40 in the third set with his famed huge serve coming to the rescue before clawing one set back in another tiebreak.
But Pouille put Raonic’s serve under increasing pressure in the fourth set and converted his third match point to close out the match in 3hr 2min.