His name is Lucas Pouille, he is 29 years old and it is said that he is back because of another of those increasingly frequent losses in this tennis, four years ago he was lost. The French sank, but here it is again and a couple of months ago it decided to open in channel in an interview granted to the newspaper L'Èquipe; To tell it, an indispensable part to continue with the reconstruction.
"I started to have a darker side and go into a depression that led me to sleep just an hour a day and drink alone. I ended up in a hospital in Nice, in a hyperbaric bed to try to heal faster, surrounded by dying patients, people with terminal cancer... I was very afraid. I didn't keep an eye and woke up with wide eyes. After a week without sleep, I threw my rackets in the trash and asked my family: Is it normal for someone with 28 years and father to be crying every time he loses a match? I came to think that I was going to end up in the psychiatric hospital, "he told the prestigious French sportsman, who now celebrates the rebirth of his player, again standing, singing La Marseillaise with his hand on his heart and present this Wednesday in the second round of the tournament. He hadn't won a game at a major since August 2019.
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"I'm very proud of myself, very happy," he said on Monday, after beating Jurij Radionov and clearing a million ghosts from the road. "When everything is going well, you have a lot of people behind you, everything is nice, everything is fine and, when you start not playing because of injuries and drops in the rankings, it's a bit more complicated; that's what demoralized me," recalled the Frenchman, in his day a brilliant future project that became the tenth best player in the world in 2018, to be part of the France that conquered the Davis Cup a year before and to raise five trophies, in addition to signing a triumph of lustre against Rafael Nadal in the US Open in New York (2016) and reaching the semifinals of the Australian Open in 2019.
However, when he peeked through the heights came the vertigo, injuries and bad streaks. A deep fall into the hole. France, in search of a talent proportional to its history, maneuvered decisively: objective, to rescue Pouille. First, the person; Then, the professional. To do this, the Federation (FFT) reactivated in November 2022 an old program (Ambition Grand Chelem, Grand Slam Ambition) that had been paralyzed, focused on promoting the development of young people and addressing two very particular cases: that of Pouille and that of Fiona Ferro, another promising 26-year-old player who was diluted until last summer she filed a complaint for rape against her former coach. Pierre Bouteyre, when he was still a minor.
Today, both – "returnees", they specify from the federative body – work in the National Training Center together with four other players – whose situation also responds to a series of parameters – and try to re-engage with the elite. Ferro is in it – competing in ITF tournaments, lower rank – and Pouille says he feels liberation, the relief of a cathartic return. After recovering pace in low-profile challengers and rebuilding inside, the Frenchman – 675th at the moment, cited on Wednesday with the British Cameron Norrie – lights up in Paris.
"When he joined us, we had no idea he would be able to get back to a good level so quickly," coach Eric Winogradsky, in charge of managing and rehabilitating the group, told FFT. "He showed up for the qualifiers [of Roland Garros] without having played any official matches. It was a somewhat daring challenge, but one that he accepted with great courage. He has had a hard time, as we all know. But he endured and accepted what was offered. His situation is that of someone who is in a period of reathletics. As you both know, we still have a long way to go. But we have a group with a great spirit. Everyone pulls on each other. The effort is worth it. We already have the first results," Winogradsky adds.
In this way, overcoming the qualifying phase of the tournament and supported by his family, wife and daughter, Pouille smiles, sings and celebrates: he has plenty of reasons, he believes again.
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