At Roland Garros,
At this rate, the young court number 14 at Porte d’Auteuil could bear the name of Lucas Pouille in the coming years. It’s simple, the two biggest hits of this start of Roland-Garros 2023 systematically go hand in hand, resulting in an explosive cocktail four times in seven days. Since the first qualifying round, for which he had been invited by the organizers, the 29-year-old Northerner has taken up residence on this field number 14 which can theoretically only accommodate 2,158 spectators. In fact, they were more than 2,500 Sunday evening to take place everywhere, including on the stairs, in the heart of this small cauldron ideal for tricolor players.
When he found the Austrian Jurij Rodionov, whom he had beaten with difficulty on Thursday in qualifying (1-6, 7-5, 6-0), Luca Pouille thus fed on a fervor that he describes as “d ‘unreal’ to transcend oneself. Aggressive first balls, passing passes of incredible violence and precision, and unfailing malice in the tightest exchanges. The former member of the ATP Top 10 in 2018 climbed for almost two hours to an unexpected level to easily win 6-2, 6-4, 6-3. And according to him, the short number 14 played a key role in his recital.
I feel like every day it gets crazier for me here. The energy around me is incredible, from the first point to the last. Since the first qualifying round, people have been pushing me like I’ve never been at Roland. Playing on this court where people are close to us and can live the emotions more than on a very big court, it creates something incredible. »
“Come on, second week now Lucas”
After having experienced the whole meeting on this famous court so inspiring for our bearded man, we tell you in six points why this first round of the final draw, a priori arbitrary, between the 134th… and the 675th player in the world, immediately turned into madness nameless.
- There was a queue of more than a hundred people on Sunday evening, all hoping to see spectators leave their places as this very crowded meeting progressed.
- The chants were as varied as the offensive blows deployed by Lucas Pouille on Sunday. “Let’s go Lucas, let’s go”, Seven Nation ArmyTHE We nagged them made famous by RC Lens, everything happened there.
- It was a real nightmare for the nerves of Jurij Rodionov, taken in dislike by the whole court number 14 as soon as he deigned to address the referee or suspect a ball out.
- The referee of the meeting just had the life hardly easier. She spent her evening asking the spectators “Chuuuuuuut” between the points, like a mother embarrassed to see her untenable toddlers return a Ouigo wagon.
- Even the words of encouragement for Pouille were unusual to say the least: “We’re going to do it Lucas”, “Roland-Garros this year is for you Lucas”, “Come on, the second week now Lucas”.
- Finally, the climax of the evening came from a Marseillaise madness launched twice by the spectators, including once just after the match, with a moved Lucas Pouille participating in it, hand on heart.
A highlight of his career, which in his eyes would almost be worth the Marseillaise of the 2017 Davis Cup won against Belgium in Lille (in front of 27,000 supporters, ten times more than on Sunday). “I wanted to share this moment with the spectators, as soon as they started to sing it”, explains the one who had disappeared from the radars of the ATP for several seasons. Blame it on injuries and depression fully revealed in March in The Teamwhich led him to consider definitively quitting high-level tennis.
“Give back to people everything they bring me”
Star faller of Daniil Medvedev at the 2018 edition of Roland-Garros, Lucas Pouille has passed a Grand Slam round for the first time since the US Open 2019. “Who was it against again? I don’t remember this victory [face à l’Allemand Philipp Kohlschreiber donc], smiles the Northerner. The time seemed very long. If someone had told me that in 2019, the year I reached the semi-final in Melbourne, I would not have believed it. »
Before this spectacular rebirth on the court number 14 of Roland-Garros for a week, he had however had to resolve to chain the obscure Challengers tournaments, with inevitably “a few zeros less” in his income. Challengers where he will have to multiply his performances in the coming weeks to gradually grab an ATP ranking more in line with this level which he confirmed on Sunday. In this long journey of ant, we feel the idea of a pleasurable parenthesis at will for him at Roland. What he describes with passion and freshness, after having spent about thirty minutes chaining selfies and dedications with all of his fans, at his spring home of court number 14.
That’s why I take advantage of every moment, of all these moments of communion with the public. People all give 1,000%, they are amazing. I kept hearing them say “We’ve been waiting all day to see you, we’re here for you”. It’s heartwarming, and when the match ends, I want to stay on the court as long as possible to spend time with them, thank them, sing with them. I try to give them back everything they have given me on the field since the start of this Roland-Garros. It is also thanks to them that I manage to have this energy and to play at this level. In another tournament, that probably wouldn’t have been the case. That’s the magic of Roland. »
And more precisely the magic of number 14, where Lucas Pouille hopes to return on Wednesday to challenge Benoît Paire or Cameron Norrie, who face off on Monday. “When I have that attitude and that determination on the pitch, I’m hard to beat,” he insists. And even almost unplayable in the Bombonera at Porte d’Auteuil.