In an Anglo-French battle, Lucas Pouille, France’s top ranked male player, takes on the British #3 Cameron Norrie for a place in the French Open third round. Pouille is looking to match his best ever French Open performance which came last year when he reached the round of 32 in Paris (lost to Ramos Vinolas). For Norrie, this is a first Roland Garros and just a third Slam of his nascent career. But who will come out on top?
It will be a first meeting between Norrie and Pouille when they take to the Philippe Chatrier court. For the South African-born, New Zealand-raised Norrie, it will be his debut on one of tennis’ major show courts after he only turned professional last year, having spent the previous years playing NCAA tennis. Pouille, who has now been a touring pro since 2012, is unsurprisingly rather more experienced than his opponent, with 100 Tour-level victories to Norrie’s 7.
Path to the second round
Pouille, seeded 15th in Paris, has the hopes of a nation resting on his shoulders, particularly in the absence of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and with Gael Monfils and Richard Gasquet not the forces they once were. He made a good start to his tournament by defeating the tricky Daniil Medvedev in the first round in what could well have proved a difficult match. But Pouille was dominant throughout and advanced a deserved 6-2 6-3 6-4 victor.
Norrie, who earned direct entry to a Slam for the first time this year in Paris, started his campaign against Peter Gojowczyk of Germany. Gojowczyk came into the tournament off the back of an excellent week in Geneva where he defeated three seeds back-to-back in the shape of Ferrer, Seppi and Fognini to reach the final, although he was defeated there by Marton Fucsovics. But that had left him with nothing left in the tank for the French Open and he was forced to withdraw early in the second set trailing 1-6 0-2.
How do they match up?
Lucas Pouille is a superbly naturally gifted player, who the French tennis authorities have long had faith in. His forehand is his best shot, with the 24-year-old capable of injecting serious pace into the shot. His backhand is less of a weapon, but is a dependable stroke for the Frenchman even if it can occasionally be wayward when he presses with it. Like most ATP players, he is an excellent server with his first serve earning him a fair number of free points in most matches.
Norrie is increasingly developing into a fine all-round player. Both his forehand and his backhand are consistent and reliable shots. His serve is also a useful weapon. What Norrie perhaps lacks still is a weapon that he can use to really hit through opponents. Currently, without such a weapon, the Briton is forced to try and breakdown his opponents in long rallies, a fairly taxing strategy, or by pushing close to the lines, the risks of which are obvious.
Norrie’s continuing development will be an interesting watch and he’s already done incredibly well to break into the top 100 so early in his career. But Lucas Pouille is ranked 79 places higher than him for a reason. The Frenchman should also have the backing of the Chatrier crowd, who are rightly renowned for their passionate support of French players. All in all, this seems a mountain too high for Norrie to climb. Pouille in straight sets.