Decked out in Agassi-era neons and backwards cap, Lucas Pouille looks like a guy who stumbled onto the court after an EDM festival, or after getting chased off a fictional Seth Rogen’s property. But the 22-year-old also just won his first ATP title—the Moselle Open, in his home country of France—and is only weeks removed from his second Grand Slam quarterfinal this year, which means he’s very, very good at tennis. Despite the breathless, glossy attempts to anoint bad boy Nick Kyrgios the sport’s Next Big Thing, I’d rather bet on the man in pink. Now ranked No. 16, Pouille sits only one spot behind Kyrgios; he also seems far less likely to cast his racket into the sea and try out for the Celtics.
Rankings don’t appear to intimidate the Frenchman: In the best win of his career, he outlasted Rafa Nadal in a savage, four-hour, five-setter in Queens before (understandably) falling to peak Gael Monfils. He’s had two wins over David Ferrer this year too, and this weekend’s very watchable victory over 10th-ranked Dominic Thiem adds more evidence to the case. After Pouille caught this merciful high-bounce off the net cord in the first-set tiebreak, the match opened up for him, and he dispatched Thiem in an tidy 6-2 second set. For all the vapid color-commentary about emotional “momentum,” there is surely something demoralizing about losing a crucial point this way:
He’s got technically pristine and aggressive groundstrokes, a good appetite for net play, a fun name to say (pwee!), you and should fully expect him to linger late into the majors next year.