Venus rel­ishes his time on big stage

Sunday News - - SPORT - DAVID LONG

PHOTOSPORT IF there was any doubt about what a spe­cial year it’s been for Michael Venus, that should end when he takes the court in front of 17,000 spec­ta­tors each time he plays this week.

New Zealand’s top dou­bles player qual­i­fied with Amer­i­can Ryan Har­ri­son to play at the pres­ti­gious and lu­cra­tive sea­son end ATP fi­nals at the O2 arena in Lon­don.

It is the big­gest event out­side the Grand Slams, with only the top eight sin­gles play­ers and dou­bles teams in­vited.

For Venus, it’s fur­ther ev­i­dence that he’s reached the ten­nis elite and has been a tar­get of Venus and Har­ri­son’s since they won the French Open in June.

‘‘Once we had that suc­cess at Roland Gar­ros, it was def­i­nitely a goal to try to play here,’’ Venus said from Lon­don on Satur­day, the day be­fore he and Har­ri­son take on Henri Kon­ti­nen from Fin­land and John Peers in their open­ing match.

‘‘To be here is great, I’ve never been here be­fore for the tour­na­ment, but I’ve watched it on TV ev­ery year,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s some­thing that you want to do and I’m re­ally ex­cited with the op­por­tu­nity we’ve been able to get. So I’m try­ing to en­joy it all and hope­fully it goes well.

‘‘We’d love to be able to come back here again, but you don’t know if that will hap­pen, so we’ll en­joy mo­ment.’’

Har­ri­son is the only spe­cial­ist sin­gles player in the dou­bles tour­na­ment and his court time with Venus has been lim­ited through­out the year.

But for this event, they’ve been able to pre­pare fully, some­thing Venus hopes will pay off.

‘‘Typ­i­cally through­out the year we don’t prac­tice to­gether much be­cause Ryan is play­ing sin­gles,’’ Venus said. ‘‘So this has been a dif­fer­ent week, be­ing on the court to­gether and get­ting to work on some things.

‘‘We played some prac­tice points against some of the other dou­bles teams, then also we did some more dou­bles spe­cific drills with us on half a court.

‘‘So we mix it around and try to keep things in­ter­est­ing. They’ve taken care of us re­ally well, I think we’re ready to go and hope­fully we’ll come out play­ing well.’’

There’s no rea­son why Venus and Har­ri­son shouldn’t be op­ti­mistic about their chances. At Wim­ble­don they had a match point against Kon­ti­nen and Peers.

Kiwi Michael Venus has had a break­through year.

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