Lucas Pouille returns to Challenger Tour for the first time in three years



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Lucas Pouille returns to Challenger Tour for the first time in three years

The 25-year-old Frenchman Lucas Pouille has been one of the most accomplished players born in the 90s, reaching nine ATP finals and lifting five trophies on the Tour, three of those in 2017. The Grande-Synthe native was a late bloomer, entering the top-200 only at the age of 19 and making a name for himself in Paris 2014 when he reached the third round at Paris Masters ranked outside the top-150, losing to Roger Federer in straight sets.

Lucas gathered the momentum that carried him towards 12 ATP wins in 2015, playing in the semi-final in Auckland and Hamburg and cracking the top-70 for the first time before a breakthrough run in 2016. Improving his game regularly, Lucas claimed the maiden ATP title in Metz that September, advancing into the final in Bucharest and semi-final in Rome, followed by the quarter-final at Wimbledon and the US Open, beating Rafael Nadal in thrilling five sets in New York.

Kicking off the season from inside the top-15, Pouille was ready for more in 2017, conquering three ATP titles and establishing himself as the top-20 player before cracking the top-10 in March 2019 after an impressive month of February.

Interestingly, Lucas never had a chance to play a match as the top-10 star, withdrawing from Miami and dropping out from the elite group at the beginning of April, never finding the same form again. Since Monte Carlo last year, the Frenchman has been struggling to deliver his 'A game,' suffering some terrible losses and scoring only 18 wins to drop out from the top-30.

Five of those 18 wins came in Melbourne in January, advancing into the first Grand Slam semi-final to earn 720 points that keep him inside the top-50 after failing to claim a victory in the other six ATP tournaments so far in 2019!

Andrey Rublev toppled him at the beginning of the year in Sydney and Lucas is yet to win a match since January, with an early exit in Montpellier, Indian Wells, Miami, Monte Carlo and Barcelona, suffering the latest defeat this week against David Ferrer who is about to retire in Madrid!

Instead of risking more early exits on the ATP Tour, Lucas has decided to step down and enter the first Challenger event in three years this week in Bordeaux. Staged at Villa Primrose, the BNP Paribas Primrose has been a part of the Challenger Tour since 2008, with Richard Gasquet, Martin Klizan, Gael Monfils, Julien Benneteau, Thanasi Kokkinakis, Steve Darcis and Reilly Opelka among the champions.

Lucas will join Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the draw and they will face Adrian Mannarino, Gregoire Barrere, Antoine Hoang and others on the title chase, standing as the favorites to reach the final if the draw puts them in different parts.

Lucas never won a Challenger title, making his debut on that level in Noumea in 2012 and losing many semi-finals before going one step further in 2014 when Kimmer Coppejans defeated him in the final in Meknes. In November 2015 Benoit Paire halted Pouille in the title match at home in Mouilleron Le Captif and he entered only one Challenger tournament after that in Guadalajara next March, starting to play well on the ATP Tour and staying away from the lower-ranked events for three years.