After a second straight Major quarterfinal, Lucas Pouille has established himself as a rising star on the ATP Tour. Just how high can the Frenchman rise?
Pouille’s quarterfinal at Wimbledon came as a major surprise considering he had an 0-4 record on grass. His wins over Juan Martin Del Potro and Bernard Tomic showed that his game, a hard serve and volley style, were perfectly suited for the grass. If anyone thought that was a fluke, the Frenchman reached the last eight at the US Open. Along the way he knocked off Rafael Nadal in the fourth round, in a five-set classic.
What’s next for Lucas Pouille?
What makes Pouille so successful is that his game–as mentioned above, a hard serve that often reaches the mid-120s on the radar gun and excellent volleys, something rarely seen on the tour these days–is perfectly suited for all surfaces. At 6’1”, he’s not the biggest player on tour, which makes his game even more impressive. As proven at the last two Majors, the 22-year old has a penchant for knocking off the very best. The wins over Del Potro and Nadal both came after being behind in the matches.
Pouille has very little experience among the elite. This is his one drawback at the moment. Aside from the two Slam quarterfinals, he’s reached one tour-level final. He lost on clay in Bucharest to Fernando Verdasco, arguably his worst surface. The only other significant result he’s had was a semifinal run in Rome as a Lucky Loser. He fell to eventual champion Andy Murray.
So, what lies ahead for the Frenchman? With a career-high ranking of #18, he should get easier draws in the bigger events, allowing him the opportunity to pile up more wins. Conversely, he’ll have to adjust to being “the hunted” as he won’t sneak up on anyone now. How he handles that pressure will determine how far he goes.
What is Pouille’s actual ceiling? With a game such as his, a Top 10 ranking is certainly not out of the question and the Rome, Wimbledon, and US Open points won’t come off of his ranking until mid to late 2017, allowing him the rest of this year and the first half of next year to continue to build and even if he suffers a few first-round losses, his points from those three events should sustain him for quite a while.
Pouille made a name for himself in London and New York. He showed the tennis world a guy with average height can still play big in an era where most power players are tall. While he may never achieve the heights of the players at the very top, his game and his age show he can be a consistent top 10 to top 15 player for years to come if he stays on the same path he’s on now.
While 2016 is certainly not over, Pouille’s biggest tournament to come will be the 2017 Australian Open where some answers to the current questions will be provided. Still, the ATP now has another young star with plenty of game to look forward to.