French No32 seed Lucas Pouille credits a move to Dubai for his recent surge in form and results, noting his preseason training block in the UAE heat as a major factor in his improved fitness.
Pouille was ranked just inside the top-100 this time last year and he started the 2016 season at No78 in the world.
Today, he is a top-30 player, and will face No10 seed Tomas Berdych in the Wimbledon quarter-finals.
Pouille, the son of a French father and Finnish mother, had never won a single match on grass prior to this fortnight. He was 0-4 lifetime on this surface and had never made it past the second round at a major.
He took out Juan Martin del Potro to reach the fourth round here at Wimbledon before coming through a tough five-setter to beat No19 seed and former quarter-finalist Bernard Tomic.
“I’m playing aggressive, trying to approach the net as much as possible, trying to dominate the point, to be on the baseline, and not to be so far away and run every time. Yeah, I think aggressive player,” Pouille said when asked to describe his style of play.
Aggressive is an apt word. He has hit a combined number of 148 winners in his last two rounds alone.
The rain has meant that several players have had to play on back-to-back days throughout the majority of the first week and Pouille was no exception. The 22-year-old has spent nine hours and 13 minutes on court so far, in singles, and competed on four consecutive days before finally getting a day off yesterday.
“I think I worked very hard. I changed couple of things. End of December I was in Dubai, I practiced hard under the sun. It was hot, difficult conditions. That’s why I think I can play every day here. I was able to do it,” said Pouille following his victory over Tomic in the fourth round.
“At the end I was maybe, yeah, more fresh than him. Yeah, I think that’s the main reason.”
He admits he exceeded his own expectations by having this run at Wimbledon, particularly on a surface he had never won a match on in the past.
“Before the tournament, my expectation was to win one match on grass,” said Pouille with a smile.
“Yeah, now, of course, I’m very happy, very emotional. I will try to recover as good as possible for Wednesday. It will be my first day off tomorrow, so it will be good. But, yeah, now trying to reach the semi-final.”
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The pressure has not caught up with Andy Murray at Wimbledon after years of learning how to deal with it, but it certainly has left Nick Kyrgios in a melancholic state resembling an existential crisis following their fourth round on Monday.
Murray reached an impressive ninth consecutive Wimbledon quarter-final, recording his 50th career victory at the tournament, with a 7-5, 6-1, 6-4 win against the 21-year-old Kyrgios.
In front of a golf-themed Royal Box that included Jack Nicklaus, Danny Willett, Luke Donald, Shane Lowry, Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, Chris Wood and Matthew Fitzpatrick, Murray was flawless in his dismissal of the entertaining Aussie, needing just one hour and 43 minutes to wrap up the victory.
At the net, Murray and Kyrgios shared a warm embrace.
“He said ‘sorry’. I said ‘it’s okay, just win the tournament, please’,” revealed Kyrgios later.
A visibly dejected Kyrgios walked into the press room and described his performance in the second and third sets as “pathetic”.
The Aussie had been in a stellar mood with the press through his opening three rounds but cut a depressed figure yesterday after his defeat, admitting he has been unable to fully commit to trying to become the best pro he can be.
“At times, like, I’ve previously said, I don’t love the sport. But I don’t really know what else to do without it,” confessed Kyrgios.
“I obviously like playing the game. It’s a massive part of my life. But, yeah, I don’t know whether – I don’t really know.”
Asked what he feels can give him the right motivation, or pique his interest more in the sport, Kyrgios responded: “I don’t know. To be honest, I woke up this morning and played computer games. Is that the greatest preparation? I don’t know. But it was fun.”
"Ladies & gentlemen please keep your enthusiasm until after the point" #tennis— Reem Abulleil (@ReemAbulleil) July 4, 2016
Kyrgios, seeded No15 and making his third Wimbledon fourth round in as many appearances, could not have served any better throughout the opening set, landing 30 out of 34 first serves in but one bad service game at 5-6 proved costly as Murray broke to take a one-set lead.
Murray broke early in the second to open up a 4-1 lead then went up 0-40 for three more chances to break in game six on a Kyrgios double fault.
Kyrgios saved the first two but faltered on the third to go down a double-break. Murray was soon leading by two sets.
The Scot broke for 2-1 in the third and maintained his lead throughout. Kyrgios saved match points and held serve for 4-5 but it only delayed the inevitable as Murray closed it out to set up a quarter-final with French No12 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
With Novak Djokovic out of the tournament, the second-seeded Murray is touted as the favourite for the title. Has the pressure been piling on the Scot’s shoulders towards the business end of the event?
“I’ve been dealing with it for years. I feel no different this year to any other year when I played here,” said Murray, who faced zero break points against Kyrgios.
“I think today was very good. I knew it was a dangerous match. I was very switched on from the start. I’m fully aware of how difficult my next opponent is, as well.
“I know Tsonga is one of the best grass court players in the world. If he plays well, I’m not on my game, I can lose that match for sure. So I need to make sure I have a good practice tomorrow, stay focused on that one. Take it one match at a time.”
Querrey: Everyone in the locker room has been so kind. Great job, well done. Novak and his whole team couldn't have been nicer.— Reem Abulleil (@ReemAbulleil) July 3, 2016
Murray could tell that Kyrgios switched off after the first set and agreed when asked if the young Aussie needs to work on staying focused throughout matches like that.
On how Kyrgios can work on that, Murray said: “Everyone’s different. It’s about, you know, finding the right people to help you with different things. For some it may be a coach. For some it might be a psychologist. Sometimes it might be speaking to family about stuff. There’s not one way of tackling it.
“But if you want to continue to get better, then you speak and listen to as many people as you can, and take onboard the things you think will help you.”
Kyrgios is without a coach and believes it would be difficult to find one that would tolerate his habits.
“I don’t know. Just, like, one week I’m pretty motivated to train and play, I’m really looking forward to getting out there. One week I’ll just not do anything. I don’t really know a coach out there that would be pretty down for that one,” said Kyrgios.
Tsonga spent just 24 minutes on court before his opponent, French No7 seed Richard Gasquet, retired with a back injury while trailing 2-4.
Sixth-seeded Milos Raonic survived a scare against No11 seed David Goffin, fighting from a two-sets-to-love lead before beating the Belgian 4-6, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.
“I think I allowed him to play too much on his terms. I was getting a lot of balls in and playing the points and playing maybe better‑looking tennis at the beginning. I sort of gave up on that and said, I got to play this on my terms,” said the Canadian, who next No28 seed Sam Querrey.
Querrey followed up his huge upset over Djokovic with a straight-sets victory over Frenchman Nicolas Mahut.
No32 seed Lucas Pouille had a 0-4 record on grass prior to this tournament yet booked a place in the quarter-finals with a 6-4, 4-6, 3-6, 6-4, 10-8 win over No19 seed Bernard Tomic in a match that saw them hit a combined 150 winners.
Andy Murray, Roger Federer and Serena Williams cruised into the Wimbledon last eight on ‘Manic Monday’ as Dominika Cibulkova pondered cancelling her wedding following her shock run to the quarter-finals.
Murray racked-up his 50th Wimbledon match win while Federer reached the quarter-finals for the 14th time as the top two remaining seeds edged closer to a dream title match.
Second seeded Murray, the 2013 champion, eased to a 7-5, 6-1, 6-4 win over fiery Australian Nick Kyrgios and will next face French 12th seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Federer went equal with Jimmy Connors’ mark of 14 quarter-finals at Wimbledon and tied Martina Navratilova’s all-time Slam record of 306 match wins by seeing off Steve Johnson of the United States 6-2, 6-3, 7-5.
Serena Williams powered into her 12th Wimbledon quarter-final as the defending champion clinched a 7-5, 6-0 victory over Russian 13th seed Svetlana Kuznetsova.
World number one Williams hit 43 winners and served 14 aces as she won the last nine games on Centre Court to remain on course for a record-equalling 22nd major title and a seventh Wimbledon crown.
The 34-year-old, an eight-time Wimbledon finalist, will next play Russian 21st seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, a 6-3, 6-3 winner over Coco Vandeweghe of the United States.