Emmanuel Planque was Lucas Pouille's coach when the Frenchman stunned Rafael Nadal at the US Open 2016. It was the second mediocre season for the Spaniard despite two ATP titles by his name, suffering an early loss in Cincinnati and hoping for a better run in New York.
After three commanding wins, Rafa faced Lucas Pouille in the last 16 and suffered a tough 6-1, 2-6, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 loss in four hours and seven minutes. It was a grueling battle that took almost everything from both rivals, although Nadal still found the strength to stand up in the locker room and congratulate Lucas and Emmanuel once again, wishing them the best in the rest of the event.
It was the third straight five-setter for Pouille, staying composed against the 14-time Major winner and prevailing in the deciding set tie break. Lucas had 59 winners and 53 unforced errors, while Rafa hit 52 winners and 41 mistakes, not enough to escape and reach the quarters.
The Frenchman claimed more free points with his serve, while Nadal compensates that from the baseline, defending his forehand against Pouille's backhand crosscourt shots. Nadal won more points on the first serve, Pouille on the second, and they finished the match with 156 points each, which shows how close they were.
Unimpressed by the opponent from the other side of the net, Lucas stormed over Rafa to win the opener 6-1. He broke Nadal in games two and six, fending off a break chance in game seven for a perfect start. In set number two, both players had four break opportunities, and it was Nadal who delivered better tennis in the more important moments, fending off all four in a single game and stealing Lucas' serve in games two and eight for 6-2.
The third set produced an open battle that went on for 60 minutes, as Pouille eventually won the set 6-4. He broke Nadal in the opening game and had two break chances in the next return game, being all over Nadal's serve in those moments.
In 2016 US Open, Lucas Pouille came from 4-2 in the decider to beat Rafael Nadal.
Rafa survived six deuces and a break point in game three to somehow stay in touch, wasting his opportunity in the next one that could have brought him back to 2-2.
There were no break chances in the next six games, as both players kept their serves before Lucas held at 5-4 to forge two sets to one advantage. With no room for more errors, Nadal took the fourth set 6-3, converting two out of three break points after taking almost half of the return points, showing his fighting spirit and looking ready to chase the victory at any cost.
There were three back-to-back breaks in the set's closing stages, with Nadal securing two and serving out for the set easily to send the match into a decider. His experience met Pouille's youth and determination, and the Frenchman got stronger in the end, but only after another remarkable set of tennis that saw more winners than unforced errors, even at such a late stage.
Nadal carried the momentum from the previous set, breaking Pouille at 15 in the first game to gain control and forging a 4-2 lead. Still, Pouille pulled the break back in game eight, leveling the score at 4-4 and setting the ultimate drama.
The Frenchman saved a break point in the next one, and everything was ready for a decisive tie break soon, the best possible way to end this epic encounter. With two mini-breaks on his tally, Pouille opened a 6-3 advantage and had three match points up for grabs.
Nadal continued to dig deep, though, saving all three to lock the result at 6-6. Still, his efforts were in vain, as Pouille won the next two points to convert his fourth match point with a forehand down the line winner, advancing into the second straight Major quarter-final after Wimbledon.
"Rafa was lying in the corner of the locker room, with no energy left in his body. He still found the strength to get up together with Toni, congratulate us, and wish us good luck. It was incredibly elegance from them," Emmanuel Planque said.