Pouille’s drought-breaking Australian run reaches semifinals

Having an Australian Open champion in his corner has helped Lucas Pouille overcome a drought at Melbourne Park, where he’s reached the semifinals after five previous first-round exits.

Working with 2006 Australian Open women’s champion Amelie Mauresmo has been one of the key factors.

Pouille reached the semifinals of a Grand Slam for the first time with a 7-6 (4), 6-3, 6-7 (2), 6-4 win over 16th-seeded Milos Raonic on Wednesday, fending off a strong comeback from the 2016 Wimbledon runner-up.

Pouille entered the quarterfinal 0-3 against Raonic — including a first-round meeting here in 2016 — but targeted the big-serving Canadian’s second serve and won points on 35 of the 62 he faced. Pouille also protected his serve, and was broken just once in the match.

He has been working for a couple of months with Mauresmo, who won two major titles as a player and had previously worked as Andy Murray’s coach.

“She’s the right state of mind. She knows everything about tennis. It’s not about being a woman or a man. It doesn’t matter,” Pouille said in an on-court interview when asked about the rarity of a top-ranked male player working with a female coach. “You just have to know what you’re doing — and she does.”

The 24-year-old Frenchman will next play either six-time Australian Open titlist Novak Djokovic or eighth-seeded Kei Nishikori.

“I didn’t win a match in Melbourne before coming here” this year, Pouille said. “Now I’m in the semifinals. So just very, very happy.”

The No. 28-seeded Pouille was up two sets and had break points in the seventh and ninth games of the third but Raonic held serve in clutch moments.

Raonic rallied late in the third, after getting angry when he challenged a line judge’s call as Pouille was serving to stay in the set.

His service return hit the baseline but was called out. When he challenged it, and a replay confirmed his shot was good, chair umpire Nico Helwerth ordered a replay of the point.

Raonic thought he deserved to be given the point and, when he asked why it wasn’t awarded to him, told the umpire “because you don’t watch, because you’re incapable.”

Pouille won the replayed point and held serve for 6-6, but Raonic won the first six points of the tiebreaker and eventually forced a fourth set.

It was on serve until Pouille put serious pressure on Raonic’s serve and volleys, and broke to clinch the match.

Raonic is now 1-3 in Australian Open quarterfinals, but he had a tough draw at Melbourne Park. He had to hold off Australian Nick Kyrgios in the first round, former champion Stan Wawrinka in the second and No. 4-seeded Alexander Zverev in the fourth.


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