Lucas Pouille is going through a difficult time: after injury misery and major mental problems, the Frenchman now wants to fight his way to the Olympic Games. An image is crucial for turning.
It sounds as if someone wrote a screenplay about the career of former world number ten Lucas Pouille.
He once beat the great Rafael Nadal, played for the title in Grand Slams, even won the Davis Cup with France – and suddenly he found himself in the midst of regular alcohol consumption and depression.
In an interview with the The team revealed Pouille, who wants to return soon, the tragedy he has been through in recent years: “I had to stop for my mental health. I would have hit the wall.”
Pouille sensationally beats Nadal at Australian Open
The first big appearance was almost exactly ten years ago: Pouille received a wild card for the French Open as a Frenchman and was allowed to prove himself on the big stage for the first time.
From then on, his career progressed rapidly: in 2016, the 1.86 meter athlete beat Rafael Nadal in the round of 16 at the Australian Open, followed a year later by the Davis Cup triumph with his home country.
And the successes didn’t seem to want to end at first. At the end of March 2018, the man with the important shots even found himself in tenth place in the world rankings and was even able to win over German ex-star Tommy Haas as a coach for a short time.
But it should remain the highest position in his career for the time being. Because after the joy of being a father in January 2020, a long period of suffering began.
Elbow injury puts Pouille out of action for a long time
An elbow injury that required surgery put the right-hander out of action for months.
The good world ranking was gone, and with it the confidence: “When you have all that behind you and are defeated in the first round of a challenger by number 300 in the world rankings”, that’s tough.
But he himself didn’t see that he could live with the new reality of a worse ranking. In his mind, he continued to be a top 10 player: “I didn’t have the humility needed and it’s not comfortable to say to yourself that you lack humility.”
The side effects went hand in hand with the sporting misery. The sponsorship contracts with Rolex and Peugeot were subsequently terminated as he was placed too low in the rankings.
“From the semi-finals of a Grand Slam to the first round of a Challenger, it’s a few zeros less,” Pouille said of his earnings.
Pouille: “I started to see everything black”
And yet he decided last year that he was serious about coming back. With a training camp at the beginning.
The result: a broken rib, noticed when passing shots on the court: “I think: ‘If I break a rib with a forehand, then it’s no longer for me’. From then on, I started seeing everything black.”
For two weeks, Pouille remained in a hospital in Nice, partly in a hyperbaric chamber next to people with terminal cancer. He fell into a depression that “made him sleep an hour every night and drink alone.”
Daughter saves Pouille from the insane asylum
The former tennis Croesus lied to training partners, pushing allergies for the training failure. It was only when he received a picture of his daughter on his cell phone in the evening that Pouille realized: I urgently need to change something.
“I was in a bad phase. And I made the decision to say stop. Otherwise I would have ended up in Sainte-Anne, in the rathouse. I had to quit for my sanity. I would have hit the wall,” explained Pouille.
He gave up his tennis career for half a year before traveling to the Masters in Paris in December – as a spectator – and plucking up new courage. But he no longer looked at the world rankings, “I think that would give me a little blow.”
Olympia 2024 in Paris as a big goal
With the encouragement of doubles expert Pierre-Hugues Herbert and other former teammates, Pouille returned to his great love – tennis.
And he sees light again at the end of the dark: The 2024 Olympic Games – in Paris. “I think about it every day. It’s the only event I haven’t attended. I want to try If I can do it, it’s great,” he said.
But the possibility of failure is also taken into account by the now 29-year-old: “If I don’t make it, I won’t regret it because I’ve done everything for it.”