Melbourne - Lucas Pouille hailed new coach Amelie Mauresmo
for bringing him "a lot of confidence" after Wednesday becoming the
first Frenchman to reach the semi-finals of the Australian Open since Jo-Wilfried
Tsonga in 2010.
The 28th seed fought back from a break down in the first set
to stun 16th seed Milos Raonic 7-6 (7/4), 6-3, 6-7 (2/7), 6-4 and reach the
last four of a Slam for the first time.
The 24-year-old had never won a match at Melbourne Park before
this year but will on Friday face Novak Djokovic for a place in the final.
"I think she's bringing a lot of confidence to my game,
to my personality, to my state of mind," he said of the Frenchwoman, who
won the singles crown at Melbourne Park in 2006.
"As I said at the beginning, the goal is not to reach
the final, the semi-final, the goal is to improve my tennis, to put into a
match what I work on during practice.
"That gives me less pressure. I'm just trying to focus
on my game, not on the consequences and the results."
Pouille recruited the double Grand Slam title winner
Mauresmo to his team in the off-season after a splitting with long-time coach
Mauresmo, who also won Wimbledon in 2006, had in the past
been the subject of criticism on social media while coaching Andy Murray, with
some saying men could not be coached effectively by a woman.
"Men are coaching women, so why not the contrary? I
mean, they don't get it," Pouille said, adding that more men should hire
"As I said again and again, it's not about being a man
or a woman, it's about knowing tennis," said Pouille, who in March last
year broke into the top 10 of the ATP Tour rankings for the first time.
"She's a champion. She's a great coach."
Currently ranked 31, Pouille arrived in Melbourne in poor
form: he had lost all three of his singles matches at the Hopman Cup and
suffered a first-round exit at the Sydney International.
"I just kept working hard. All the matches I decided to
take step by step, give everything on every point and here I am."
Former world number three Raonic raced to a 3-0 lead after
breaking Pouille's first service game as the Frenchman seemed to take a few
minutes to adjust to the magnitude of the occasion on Rod Laver Arena.
Pouille soon settled into the match so effectively that he
broke back at 5-3 down and took the set in a tiebreak on the back of 18 winners
to only five unforced errors.
"I really wanted to return as much as possible and make
him play, take care of my serve and not put too much pressure on myself,"
Pouille had equalled his best Slam performance by reaching
the quarter-final and was aiming to become the first Frenchman to reach the
last four at any major since Gael Monfils at the 2016 US Open.
An early break in the second put him in the driving seat.
Raonic had to dig deep at 3-3, 15-40 in the third set with
his famed huge serve coming to the rescue before clawing one set back in
But Pouille put Raonic's serve under increasing pressure in
the fourth set and converted his third match point to close out the match in