Coach Amelie Mauresmo , whom Pouille hired in December.
“I think she’s bringing a lot of confidence to my game, to my personality, to my state of mind,” he said afterward. “The goal is not to reach the final or the semifinal, but to improve my tennis, to put what I work on during the practice in the match. That gives me less pressure. I’m just trying to focus on my game, not on the consequences and the results.
While Pouille said the final four was not his main objective, under her guidance, the 28th seed has reached his first major semifinal, where he takes on world No. 1 Novak Djokovic on Friday (3:30 a.m. ET on ESPN).
But that’s not it. Pouille also …
Became the Frenchman to reach the semifinals at the Australian Open since Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in 2010
Won his first match again Raonic, who’s no tough out
Looking to join Yannick Noah (1983 French Open) as the only Frenchmen in the Open era to win a major title
Which begs the question: Should more men hire more women’s coaches?
“They should. They should,” Pouille said. “She has the right state of mind, she knows everything about tennis. It’s not about being a woman or a man. It doesn’t matter. You just have to know what you’re doing, and she does.”
Of course, as a former world No. 1 and a champion at the Australian Open and Wimbledon in 2006, Mauresmo’s playing credentials speak for themselves. But it was her union with Andy Murray in June 2014 that broke new ground. Watching Murray’s drive to improve impressed Mauresmo, herself a famously hard worker.
When she began working with Murray, he received messages from some players baffled at his decision to hire a female coach. One went as far as asking Murray if he was considering hiring a dog next. Murray defended Mauresmo, saying, among other things, “I think Amelie brings with her experience and tactical expertise and will push us all to improve. Everyone I know talks very highly of Amelie, as a person and coach.”
Together, they enjoyed a good on-court relationship for two years. Although Murray did not win a Slam title under the tutelage of Mauresmo, he did capture significant victories in Munich and the Madrid Masters 1000 in Madrid — his first titles on clay.
But it was Murray’s greater message, one of fighting sexism in tennis that might have influenced Pouille to hire Mauresmo.
“[Murray] has been really outspoken about equality, about women being able to coach, whether a male player or a female player,” Mauresmo told a small group of reporters at Melbourne Park on Thursday. “He’s been really proactive in this area, so it’s definitely going to be one thing that people remember about him. And the fact that he hired me at the time probably put the idea, at least in Lucas’s mind maybe, to think, ‘Yeah, maybe she can help me.’
And judging by Pouille’s run in Melbourne so far, she has. His talent has never been in question, but Mauresmo has honed in on specific refinements to his game.
“Trying to stick to the player’s game, what the strengths are — Andy and Lucas have very different weapons in their games and weaknesses as well — so trying to work on both to make sure everything improves and always looking for the detail that is going to make the difference,” Mauresmo said.
Though Denis Istomin, Mikhail Kukushkin and Denis Shapovalov all have female coaches, each of them are family members. Even in the WTA, women’s coaches are far and few. Of the top 100 players, only eight percent are officially working with a female coach.
“Maybe it’s the fact they have children and then they have to leave the children,” said Mauresmo, who brought her two children with her to Melbourne. “It’s a job that you have to travel a lot to be able to do it in the proper way, so I think that’s also what makes it pretty difficult.”
Mauresmo noted that while wins over Raonic in the quarters and No. 11 Borna Coric in the fourth round were impressive, Pouille is going to need a new level in his Friday showdown with Djokovic. “He has won six times here in Australia, so I’m pretty sure he’s the worst opponent for a lot of guys out there,” she said.
But if Pouille can pull off the upset and unquestionably the biggest win of his career Friday, you can bet his coach will be a major reason.