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The Pouille Renaissance Continues At Roland Garros

This year’s Roland Garros is proving a renaissance for Lucas Pouille.

No. 675 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, the Frenchman entered the tournament far from the level with which he once cracked the world’s Top 10. But inspired by his home crowd, the 29-year-old has shown he has plenty of top-level tennis left in him.

Pouille defeated Austrian lucky loser Jurij Rodionov 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 on Sunday to reach the second round. The Frenchman is the lowest-ranked player to win a first-round match at Roland Garros since World No. 762 Pablo Cuevas in 2013.

Pouille qualified for the main draw on Thursday when he rallied past Rodionov. The Austrian was given a second chance to oust the home favourite when he moved into the draw as a lucky loser, but was unable to overcome the five-time ATP Tour titlist.

After the 2019 Australian Open semi-finalist sealed his victory in one hour and 56 minutes, he sang La Marseillaise in unison with the crowd. The moment will be one of the most memorable of the tournament.

In the evening match on Court Philippe Chatrier, No. 1 Frenchman Ugo Humbert cruised past countryman Adrian Mannarino 6-3, 6-3, 6-1. It was the 24-year-old’s first Roland Garros win on his fifth attempt.

“It’s really special. I've been trying for four to five years, and I've never managed to actually relax on court here until I was very first on centre court, on Philippe-Chatrier Court,” Humbert said. “I had a wonderful time, and I'm really satisfied with my first match.”

The lefty has found great success on the ATP Challenger Tour in recent weeks. He lost in the first round in Madrid to Emil Ruusuvuori before winning the Challenger 175 event in Cagliari. After again falling to Ruusuvuori in the first round in Rome, he lifted another Challenger 175 trophy in Bordeaux.

“It was a mental process. Jeremy [Chardy], my coach, tried to convince me that I could win. In the previous seasons I had only had two to three wins on clay,” Humbert said. “And so he told me, ‘All right, well, trust me. You are going to try to play differently, even if you're not going to succeed at the beginning’. That's what I did in Cagliari, it implied some questions about my game and how to adjust it to play on clay and to protect yourself on clay. It's crucial.

“I’m really enjoying it out there. Now it's the surface on which I've won the most points, so I'm really glad.”

In another all-French match, Corentin Moutet defeated #NextGenATP Arthur Cazaux 6-1, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4.

“[I was] trying to be aggressive and trying to reproduce what we do when we practise. I was trying to play my game. Anyway, I don't have 1,000 more options when I play,” Moutet said. “I didn't know him really well, so I was trying to discover what I had against me.”

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